With crime such an important issue, Americans depend on the FBI for accurate data. The crime data for 2021 is a mess, with almost 40 percent of law enforcement agencies
around the country not submitting any data to the FBI. In California, 93 percent didn’t report crime data. In New York, 87 percent didn’t. Cities are embarrassed by the soaring crime rates, and even when they've collected the data, they aren’t transmitting those numbers to the FBI.
These news reports relied on a series of FBI reports on active shootings put together by researchers at Texas State University.
To compile its list, the FBI hired academics at the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University. Police departments don’t collect data, so the researchers had to find news stories about these incidents.
My organization, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), also undertook a search for news stories and discovered a total of 360 active shooter incidents from 2014 to 2021, finding that an armed citizen stopped 124
of these. I also found that the FBI had misidentified five cases, usually because the person who stopped the attack was incorrectly identified as a security guard. We found these cases on a tiny budget of just a few thousand dollars. Although we found that armed citizens had stopped 11 times more cases than the FBI had reported, I make no claim that we've identified all of them. It's quite possible that the news media itself doesn't cover many such incidents.
But no one needs to take my word for it that the FBI missed many cases. All of the news stories that my team collected are listed on the CPRC website
While the FBI claims that just 4.4 percent of active shootings were stopped by law-abiding citizens carrying guns, the percentage that I found was 34 percent. I'm more confident that we've identified a higher percentage of recent cases, and the percentage in 2021 was even higher—49 percent.
The FBI doesn’t differentiate between law-abiding citizens stopping attacks where guns are banned and where they're allowed, but you can’t really expect law-abiding citizens to stop attacks where it's illegal to carry guns. In places where law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry firearms, the percentage of active shootings stopped is higher than 50 percent for the whole period. And, again, we're more confident that we have had more cases in recent years. The figure hits 58 percent in 2021.
In order to follow the FBI’s definition, I also had to exclude 24 cases because a law-abiding person with a gun stopped the attacker before he was able to get off a shot.
But there's a more basic problem in the reliance on news coverage to determine whether an active shooting was stopped by an armed civilian. The news media has a clear bias to cover cases in which bad things happen over cases in which bad things are prevented. The old adage is: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Killings are usually more newsworthy than woundings, and woundings are more notable than confrontations defused simply by someone brandishing a gun.
As an example, I examined
news stories of defensive gun use data from Jan. 1 to Aug. 10 and found 774 defensive gun uses, fully 85 percent involving people who were shot: 43 percent resulting in death and 42 percent in wounding. Less than 4 percent of cases involved no shots fired. But survey data
indicate that in 95 percent of cases when people use guns defensively, they merely show the gun to make the criminal back off. Such defensive gun uses rarely make the news.
The problem is that the FBI numbers are used by academics who do research and by the media. To see how the FBI reports alter news coverage, see the July 17 Greenwood Mall shooting near Indianapolis in which a young man, Elisjsha Dicken, used his legally carried gun to stop what clearly would have been a horrible mass public shooting. The news coverage immediately relied on the FBI and Texas State University reports to tell people that Dicken’s heroism was very unusual.
“Making Dicken’s heroism perhaps even more remarkable is the fact cases of an armed bystander attacking an active shooter are rare,” CNN noted
two days after the attack.
“The Greenwood incident is unique, however, because it became one of the rare instances of an armed civilian successfully intervening to end a mass shooting,” The Washington Post claimed
the day after the attack.
But what's really rare is the news coverage of these attacks. Few know that there were at least six other similar likely mass public shootings that armed civilians stopped
in the first nine months of this year.
It's hard to ignore how all of this feeds into the gun control debate. Nor can one forget about the charges of political bias leveled by whistleblowers in the FBI
The FBI is systematically missing defensive gun uses. And it has failed to fix these errors, even when I've pointed them out. Considering how often the media cites the FBI as an authoritative source, this institution needs to do better.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.