Tag: Gun Control

Does the U.S. Lead the World in Mass Shootings?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

An inevitable talking point following any mass public shooting is that such tragedies “simply don’t happen” anywhere else in the world. Former President Barack Obama famously said following the 2015 Charleston church shooting which killed nine, that “This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”

To support the claim, the White House released a statement citing research from criminologist Adam Lankford, which concluded the U.S. has roughly 5% of the world’s population, but 31% of the world’s mass shootings (with 90 of 292 mass shootings having a minimum of four victims having occurred in the U.S.). The time-frame was from 1966-2012, and put the blame on America’s gun laws and gun culture. The study also found that American mass shootings tend to be carried out with multiple weapons, while mass shootings abroad tend to be carried out with a single weapon (though interestingly the average death toll per shooting is lower in the U.S. despite that, with about 6.87 victims per incident in the U.S. and 8.8 per incident abroad). 

Countless publications cited the study as proof that mass shootings are a uniquely American problem, but a new study found serious flaws in Lankford’s research, concluding instead that despite having 4.6% of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s firearms, we in the U.S. experience just 2.88% of the world’s mass shootings. According to the study, authored by John Lott and titled “How a Botched Study Fooled the World About the U.S. Share of Mass Public Shootings: U.S. Rate is Lower than Global Average“:

Lankford claims to have “complete” data on such shooters in 171 countries. However, because he has neither identified the cases nor their location nor even a complete description on how he put the cases together, it is impossible to replicate his findings.

It is particularly important that Lankford share his data because of the extreme difficulty in finding mass shooting cases in remote parts of the world going back to 1966. Lack of media coverage could easily lead to under-counting of foreign mass shootings, which would falsely lead to the conclusion that the U.S. has such a large share.

As it turned out, Lankford massively under-counted mass shootings abroad, giving the U.S. an unjustly high share of the world’s mass shootings in his findings. Lott’s study used the same criteria for mass shootings as Lankford, though his researchers relied on a wide array of crime databases to search for mass shootings, and also hired people who spoke Chinese, French, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and other languages to scour international sources Lankford may have missed.

And boy did Lankford miss a lot. Lott’s list include:

1,448 attacks and at least 3,081 shooters outside the United States over just the last 15 years of the period that Lankford examined (1998-2012). We find at least fifteen times more mass public shooters than Lankford in less than a third the number of years. Coding these events sometimes involves subjectivity. But even when we use coding choices that are most charitable to Lankford, his 31 percent estimate of the US’s share of world mass public shooters is cut by over 95 percent. By our count, the US makes up less than 1.43% of the mass public shooters, 2.11% of their murders, and 2.88% of their attacks. All these are much less than the US’s 4.6% share of the world population. Attacks in the US are not only less frequent than other countries, they are also much less deadly on average.

In other words, the U.S. has had 43 mass shootings between 1998 to 2012, compared to 1,448 from the rest of the world. 

While there’s an impression that mass shootings are on the rise in the U.S., that’s certainly not true relative to the rest of the world:

And aside from mass shootings, America is not a uniquely violent country despite widespread gun ownership. Americans commit just 3.7% of the world’s murders, despite having 4.6% of the world’s population and 40% of the world’s firearms.

Is the CDC Banned from Researching Gun Control?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

According to our liberal friends, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is banned from researching gun violence, and it’s all thanks to the NRA.

In October 2017, following the massacre at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, the Washington Post ran an article titled “Why gun violence research has been shut down for 20 years.” In it, the author Todd Frankel writes that “In 1996, the Republican-majority Congress threatened to strip funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unless it stopped funding research into firearm injuries and deaths. The National Rifle Association accused the CDC of promoting gun control. As a result, the CDC stopped funding gun-control research.”

What Frankel is referring to is the Dickey Amendment, named after Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey. It was as a result of his amendment that the CDC saw $2.6 million cut from their budget, the exact amount they had spent on gun control efforts. It’s based off this chain of events that we see headlines like:

  • This Senator Wants to Revive Federal Research on Gun Violence, 22 Years After Congress Banned It – Mother Jones
  • Treat gun violence like the public health epidemic it is and lift research ban – The Baltimore Sun
  • The CDC Can’t Fund Gun Violence Research. What if that Changed? – Wired

But here’s the thing – the CDC was never banned from researching gun violence, or gun control, despite the Dickey Amendment. According to The Federalist’s David Harsanyi:

Absolutely nothing in the amendment prohibits the CDC from studying “gun violence,” In response to this inconvenient fact, gun controllers will explain that while there isn’t an outright ban, the Dickey amendment has a “chilling” effect on the study of gun violence. Unlikely is the notion that a $2.6 million cut in funding so horrified the agency that it was rendered powerless to pay for or conduct studies on gun violence. The CDC funding tripled from 1996 to 2010. The CDC’s budget is over six billion dollars today.

I assume that the purpose of this talking point is to suggest that opponents of gun control fear having their beliefs debunked, but when Obama had the CDC study gun violence in 2013 (which you’d think would debunk this bogus narrative in it of itself), it hardly came to the conclusions that Obama wanted. In fact, the study acknowledged that there could be millions of self-defensive gun uses each year, and doesn’t mention gun control once in its discussion of mass public shootings.

That’s hardly the only study out of the CDC that could hardly be considered damning to those favoring gun rights. Back in the 1990s the CDC conducted a series of surveys on self-defensive gun use in 1996, 1997, and 1998, then proceed to never release the findings or publicly acknowledge that they were researching the subject.

The question asked in the CDC survey addressed the use or threatened use of a firearm to deter a crime. “During the last 12 months, have you confronted another person with a firearm, even if you did not fire it, to protect yourself, your property, or someone else?”

Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck recently got access to the surveys, and after reviewing them discovered that they found “in an average year during 1996–1998, 2.46 million U.S. adults used a gun for self-defense.”

At least two of those surveys was conducted in years that liberals claim the CDC was banned from conducting gun research.

Language clarifying that the Dickey Amendment does not prohibit the research of gun violence was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 23rd of this year. Ironically, by the looks of the CDC’s past research, this won’t bode well for those advocating for the Dickey Amendment’s repeal.




Are Guns “Almost Never” Used in Self Defense?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

Did you know that you should never buy fire insurance? What’s the point, when most people won’t ever see their house catch fire?

Most can probably see the flaw in such questions – as the very point of insurance is to protect against low-probability events. Most people seem to understand this kind of logic; apparently except in the case of self-defense.

A new article at NPR, headlined :”How Often Do People Use Guns In Self-Defense?” gives the impression “almost never.” Author Samantha Raphelson quotes Harvard researcher David Hemenway in stating that “The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense.”

Hemenway had conducted a study back in 2015, which found using “figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, [that] people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.”

Apparently we’re supposed to disarm ourselves, because this author thinks it would be preferable if guns were used in self-defense 0% of the time. But are his numbers right? As Reason Magazine’s Jacob Sullum noted:

The NCVS, unlike surveys that have generated higher defensive gun use (DGU) estimates, is not anonymous. Respondents have to supply their names and contact information, they are initially interviewed in person by a representative of the federal government, and they know the survey is commissioned by the Justice Department, a law enforcement agency. Hence it is plausible that some respondents remain silent about their DGUs because they worry that their actions could be legally questionable, given all the restrictions on where and when people may use firearms.

The survey also doesn’t ask people if they ever used a firearm in self-defense. It’s up to them to describe if they did. And if someone voluntarily discloses the time they pulled a gun on a criminal, even if justified, you can bet there’s a chance the government will investigate. Who wants that headache?

I wouldn’t speculate that under-reporting of DGU is a variable here – if it wasn’t for studies finding drastically higher frequencies of it, including those conducted under anti-gun administrations.

A 1994 survey conducted by Bill Clinton’s CDC found that Americans use guns to frighten away intruders who are breaking into their homes about 500,000 times per year

Obama’s CDC conducted a gun control study in 2013, finding that “Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million…” The study also noted that “[S]ome scholars point to a radically lower estimate of only 108,000 annual defensive uses based on the National Crime Victimization Survey,” but this “estimate of 108,000 is difficult to interpret because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.”

And just some other notes…

  • The Hemenway study found that it’s rural dwellers that are most likely to use a gun in self defense, but it’s urban dwellers that have the most violence – and the strictest gun control. This brings an old Michael Moore quote to mind, which he thought was a case for gun control: “the vast majority of these guns are owned by people who live in safe parts of town or mostly in suburbs and rural areas, places where there are very few murders.”
  •  It’s also worth pointing out that most crimes occur outside the home. Thus, if Hemenway is concerned about guns not being used in self-defense enough, he should come out in support liberalizing concealed carry laws. Concealed carry permit holders commit infractions at lower rates than police, so there isn’t much to fear.

Think that’ll happen anytime soon? I won’t keep my fingers crossed.

The Safest State Also Has the “Craziest” Gun Laws

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

Does Vermont have the nation’s craziest gun laws? That’s certainly what liberals seem to think.

One of their States Senators, Bernie Sanders, found himself under attack from his fellow candidates during the 2016 Democrat primary for the “crime” of having “only” a D- rating from the NRA. In particular, Sanders found himself defending a completely rational vote of his; when in 2005 he voted in favor of legislation granting gun manufacturers legal immunity from being sued by gun victims.

Rival Hillary Clinton specifically attacked Vermont’s lax gun laws as fueling gun problems in other States, but she never went into the specifics of Vermont’s gun laws – or gun crime in the State. Let’s just see what some liberals are saying:

  • In 2009, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said that Vermont’s gun laws are the “worst in the nation,” which “lead to the illegal trade of firearms” and that they “put children at risk.”
  • The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives Vermont an “F” on their gun control scorecard
  • Vermont gets a few honorable mentions in a Washington Post article on the “6 Craziest State Gun Laws,” pointing out that you can conceal and carry a firearm at age 16 in the State without a license. The State also has no minimum age to own a rifle or shotgun.
  • The Trace (a publication started with funding by “Every Town for Gun Safety”) chided Vermont as a “gun rights paradise,” quoting one gun-rights activist as saying that “Vermont, for over 220 years, has never had permits, has never had registration, and has never had any serious gun control laws”

So Vermont must be a scene right out of Mad Max, right?

Not exactly.

Vermont was the safest State in the nation in 2016, and the second safest in 2017.

And you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled if you want to see any gun violence there.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, the State had only 7 gun homicides a year from 2011-2014. In 2015 the State had 12, but that fell back to 7 in 2016. In a State of 620,000, that’s a rate of 1.12 per 100,000 people in your typical year. Interestingly enough, when reviewing the FBI’s statistics, I found they report that only two gun homicides occurred in Vermont in 2012,  for a firearm homicide rate of 0.3 per 100,000. It’s unclear what the cause of the discrepancy is, but regardless, both are extremely low.

For comparison, gun-controlled Chicago had an average firearm homicide rate of 15.25 per 100,000 people from 2010-2015.

But what about the claims that Vermont’s lax gun laws are fueling gun violence in other States? That’s based off of a 2013 ATF study which found that “adjusting for population, Vermont has the highest rate of guns traced and recovered in other states after being used for criminal activity.” By “highest rate,” they mean an entire 147 guns that left Vermont and were used in crimes across State lines – hardly an epidemic. The “rate” is only high because of Vermont’s low population.

It’s no wonder liberals are quick to criticize Vermont’s gun laws – but never seem to talk about Vermont’s gun violence.

Australian Gun Control is Impossible to Implement in America

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

In my prior two articles on Australian gun control, I tackled the myths that Australia was able to end mass shootings with sweeping gun control, and saw massive declines in gun violence and suicides following gun control. I’d encourage readers to read both those columns (hyperlinked to accordingly) first.

With this, I want the reader to entertain a thought experiment; let’s suppose Australia’s gun control did work exactly as liberals describe it. The country is mass-shooting free, gun violence is down across the board, and all they had to do was round up all the semi-automatic rifles and shotguns to do it!

Sound simple? Because it isn’t. Let’s just review some logistical differences in implementing gun control in America that Australians never had to worry about.

America Has a Whole Lot of Guns

Australia confiscated 650,000 weapons, or between 15-20% of all firearms in circulation in Australia, in 1996. In America, a country with as many guns as people, this would require the government to confiscate 50-65 million firearms.

Remember when your liberal friend told you that it’s impossible to deport our nation’s 11-15 million illegal immigrants? If that’s impossible, then how in the world would rounding up 50-65 million firearms be possible?

And that brings me to another point…

Australia is an Island

Unlike the United States, Australia doesn’t have a 2,000-mile unsecured border with a neighboring nation. The U.S.-Mexico border has been crossed illegally tens (if not hundreds) of millions of times. If we can’t keep people, and $60+ billion in drugs every year from crossing the border, why would guns be the exception?

And Then There’s the Ultimate Border Around Gun Rights – the Second Amendment 

Any gun grabber bent on implementing any kind of mandatory gun buyback (aka confiscation) in America would immediately be challenged in the courts on Second Amendment grounds.

Nearly 12,000 amendments have been proposed to the U.S. constitution, and yet we have only 27.

Do you think there’s a chance in hell an amendment repealing the second amendment would be 28th? The obvious answer is “no” – and that’s just the first logistical challenge a gun grabber would need to thwart,  before coming up with a plan to round up 50+ million guns.

Attitudes in Australia have never been even close to as pro-gun as they are in America, so there was little resistance to their government’s mandatory buyback. It goes without saying that probably wouldn’t be the same if attempted in America.

Did Gun Control Really Reduce Violence in Australia?

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

In my last column, I examined the claim that Australia implemented strict gun control (the National Firearms Agreement, or NFA), and never saw a mass public shooting ever again. The latter claim is true – but it’s not a clear-cut case for gun control for a number of reasons:

  1. Australia did not ban ALL guns like many liberals claim. There are more guns in circulation in Australia today than before gun control.
  2. Nearly all of Australia’s mass shootings occurred in the 20 years before their gun buyback. It’s thus misleading to claim that mass shootings were common in Australia’s history – until gun control.
  3. The majority of Australia’s mass public shootings have been committed with firearms that were never banned.

But as most gun rights advocates know, mass public shooting deaths make up the overwhelming minority of gun deaths. So what did Australia do to other forms of gun violence?

And since we know that the majority of gun deaths in America are suicides, did Australia see a decline in their suicide rate following gun control?

Did it reduce gun homicides?

Firearm homicides did fall post 1996 gun control – at exactly the same pace as they were naturally falling before gun control. Over a similar period (1993-2014), gun homicides in America were cut by more than half. Keep in mind that guns per capita increased about 50% in America over this period.


United States:

And the overall homicide rate fell faster in the U.S.:

A 2016 American Medical Association study examined trends in firearm homicides and suicides before and after the adoption of gun control in Australia from the 1996 NFA, and found no evidence of a statistically significant effect of gun control on the pre-existing downward trend of the firearm homicide rate.

Did it reduce gun suicides?

As just mentioned, an AMA study didn’t find any statistically significant effect of the NFA on gun suicides, but a visual is still in order to illustrate the point.

While there was a decline in firearm suicides, non-firearm suicides fell at a faster pace.

There’s not much of a reason to have believed that the NFA would reduce firearm suicides anyway, despite claims from gun control advocates that it has. Given that someone committing suicide is only going to take a single shot, a ban on semi-automatic rifles doesn’t make doing so any more difficult.


Did Gun Control Really Eliminate Mass Shootings in Australia?

Find Matt @mattpalumbo12

After every mass public shooting, there’s at least one pundit citing Australia as proof that gun control works. The narrative is relatively simple; Australia had a mass public shooting, passed gun control (unlike us silly Americans, supposedly beholden to the gun lobby), got rid of all the guns, and then never had a mass public shooting again.

The shooting in question is the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, in which a gunman killed 35 with a semi-automatic rifle, leading to sweeping gun control legislation that year.

Australia’s national government introduced a mandatory buyback program which forced gun owners to sell certain firearms (mainly semi-automatic rifles and pump action shotguns) to the state, who promptly destroyed them. This program, the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), resulted in the stock of civilian firearms in the country being reduced by approximately 15-20%.

So, did it end mass shootings?

“In the 18 years prior, 1979-1996, there were 13 fatal mass shootings [in Australia],” ABC News tells us.  And since then? Zero, we’re told.

It’s easy to see why this is such a convincing argument, but one needs to realize that Australia went nearly their entire history without mass public shootings – until the 1979-1996 period. Just took a look at the chart below:


Note: Edits made to original chart for accuracy

If we were to begin our timeframe in the 20th century, then there’s also a 70 year period with no mass public shootings, before gun control measures were implemented.

With that in mind – could the drop in mass shootings simply be a return to normal? There are a number of reasons why gun control simply can’t be responsible for the drop-off in mass shootings.

Such as the fact that….

Australia has more guns in circulation today than before the gun buyback.

While Australia’s gun buyback resulted in the destruction of 650,000 guns, they’ve been more than replaced. The estimates for total gun ownership in Australia are as follows:

1988 – 3.5 million

1996 – 3.2 million

1997 – 2.5 million

2005 – 3.05 million

2015 – 3.8 million

One estimate has ownership as high at 4.5 million.

While a fewer percentage of the public owns guns than before the massacre, there are still more guns. One may argue that the nature of firearms is different however, as rifle ownership has been restricted to single-shot rifles only, but handguns remain legal. In America, 60 percent of mass public shootings are carried out with handguns alone, and prior to the Port Arthur massacre, the worst mass shooting in Australia was carried out with a bolt action rifle. Six of Australia’s 13 mass public shootings were actually “spree shootings” (where the perpetrator shoots their multiple victims over an extended period of time) which can be (and most were) carried out with single shot weapons.

Furthermore, only two of the seven non-spree shootings were known to have been committed with the types of guns that were later banned by the NFA.

It is thus impossible to attribute the decline in mass shootings to the NFA, given that the majority those massacres were carried out with firearms that were never banned in Australia.

And lastly….

Mass Murder Still Exists… Even if Not With Guns

Mass murder by other means (knives, fire, car attack, etc) increased, from 0 incidents in the 18 years before the ban, to 6 in the years after it.

Yet another reminder that murder predates the invention of the firearm.