Data May Call Into Question Demands for New Gun Control Laws

June 2, 2019 Updated: June 2, 2019

News Analysis

Democratic presidential candidates wasted no time in demanding new gun control laws in the hours after the Virginia Beach tragedy left 12 people dead on May 31.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said new laws are needed because America is “the only developed country where this is routine.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) echoed Buttigieg, saying: “This senseless act of violence should not be normal. Too many communities have been shattered by gun violence—we cannot continue to stand idly by.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said: “The days of the NRA controlling Congress and writing our gun laws must end. Congress must listen to the American people and pass gun safety legislation. This sickening gun violence must stop.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked, “How many lives will it take before Congress acts to end this crisis,” while former Vice President Joe Biden wondered “when will we finally say enough is enough?”

The claim that gun violence is at epidemic proportions in the United States is frequently heard, but crime data from around the world presents the opposite picture.

Comparison With World Average

In a report published in November 2018, John Lott Jr., founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), said, “The U.S. is well below the world average in terms of the number of mass public shootings, and the global increase over time has been much bigger than for the United States.”

Lott analyzed data for 2,354 attacks and almost 5,000 shootings overseas between 1998 and 2015, then compared them to data for the 53 attacks and 57 shooters that occurred here during the same period.

“Attacks in the U.S. are not only less frequent than other countries, but they are also much less deadly on average. Out of the 97 countries where we have identified mass public shootings occurring, the U.S. ranks 64th in the per-capita frequency of these attacks and 65th in the murder rate,” the report reads.

The report also pointed out that “not only have these attacks been much more common outside the United States, the U.S. share of these attacks have declined over time.”

“There has been a much bigger increase over time in the number and severity of mass shootings in the rest of the world compared to the U.S.,” it states.

Separately, Lott told The Epoch Times that overseas mass public shootings have “been increasing at a three times faster rate.”

CPRC Criticized

The CPRC is often intensely criticized by Democrats and gun control activists as “pro-gun.”

South Carolina-based Democratic strategist Jimmy Williams, for example, dismissed CPRC as “a sham organization,” and told The Epoch Times that “Democrats running for president are in the mainstream of all American sentiment and polling: Ban the automatic weapons and background check for all weapon transfers.”

Williams, a former senior economic adviser to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), added that he is “a gun-owner who owns a revolver, a shotgun, and a rifle.”

Jim Manley, former communications director for then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), called CPRC “a front group for pro-gun causes” and praised Democrats for “going on the offense against the NRA and demanding common-sense gun- control measures.”

Spencer Critchley, a California-based communications consultant who worked for President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, offered advice for the current field of Democratic White House aspirants.

“The gun debate isn’t really about the facts, it’s about competing views of freedom and culture, and I think Democrats need to grasp that if they want to be effective at reaching more gun owners—most of whom actually support reasonable gun safety measures,” Critchley told The Epoch Times.

“But you need to make a connection on emotion and shared values first,” added Critchley, who is a managing partner at the Boots Road Group.

“If you lead with data linking gun ownership and gun deaths, you send gun owners the message you think guns are just bad, and you’re not likely to get anywhere with them.

“Try to understand and acknowledge why some people resist gun regulation because of how they see freedom as requiring strictly limited government and the ability for people to defend themselves—you may disagree with them, but it’s an honest view.

“Similarly, get to know the culture of people who’ve grown up around guns—if you just think of them as nuts, count on them noticing.”

Of CPRC’s report, Critchley said he questions whether “it’s useful for the CPRC study to compare the U.S. with the rest of the world, which includes failing states wracked by terrorists and gangs.”

“It seems to me it makes more sense to compare developed countries,” he said. “Even there, we have to be careful about looking only at one variable—gun ownership—since so many other variables could contribute to higher or lower rates of violence.”

Contact Mark Tapscott at