FBI Suppressing Armed Citizens Data

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Great piece over on the NRA-ILA site.

None of us trusts the FBI. It’s a rotten agency corrupted from the top down. And now, a new report from Dr. John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) reveals that they are “massaging” active shooter data. The report, Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2021, indicates that the FBI massively undercounted cases of defensive firearm use in the United States by ordinary citizens “by an order of more than ten…The FBI reported that armed citizens thwarted 4.4% of active shooter incidents, while the CPRC found 34.4%.”

“Active shooter incidents” are defined by the FBI as incidents in which an individual actively kills or attempts to kill people in a populated, public area, but it does not include incidents the agency “deems related to other criminal activity, such as a robbery or fighting over drug turf.”

Massive errors in FBI’s Active Shooting Reports regarding cases where civilians stop attacks: Instead of 4.4%, the correct number is at least 34.4%. In 2021, it is at least 49.1%. Excluding gun-free zones, it averaged over 50%.

Dr. John Lott

The CPRC identified a total of 360 active shooter incidents in the period between 2014 and 2021 and “found that an armed citizen stopped 124” of those attacks. (The report adds that there were another 24 cases “where armed civilians stopped armed attacks, but the suspect didn’t fire his gun. Those cases are excluded from our calculations, though it could be argued that a civilian also stopped what likely could have been an active shooting event.”) By comparison, the “FBI reports that armed citizens only stopped 11 of the 252 active shooter incidents it identified for the period 2014-2021.”

The CPRC attributes the undercount to a couple of factors, “misclassified shootings” and “overlooked incidents.” “Misclassified shootings” included those in which the FBI failed to properly account for cases where the shooter fled the scene upon being confronted by a person lawfully carrying a firearm, mistakenly classified armed civilians as security professionals, or apparently ignored evidence of armed civilian engagement. The second factor refers to instances where the FBI “missed 25 incidents identified by CPRC where what would likely have been a mass public shooting was thwarted by armed civilians,” with “another 83 active shooting incidents that they missed.”

An additional shortcoming in the FBI’s analysis is that the agency doesn’t identify whether an incident occurred in a “gun-free zone” in which it was impossible for law-abiding and otherwise armed civilians to respond effectively. The CPRC estimates that “about half of these attacks occur where guns are banned,” which puts the overall armed civilian engagement percentages in a more accurate context. After taking the location (gun-free zone or not) into account, the report concludes that between 2014 and 2021, more than half (51%) of the active shooter incidents in places that allow people to legally carry were stopped by an armed citizen. Even more significantly, for 2021 alone that percentage was 58%. (Of course, given the limits of the underlying FBI definition, these numbers don’t represent all cases where a person legally carrying a handgun stopped a shooting event or other crime.)

The data differences appear to be a consistent problem with the FBI’s reporting on active shooter incidents, including at least six missing cases in 2018-2019 where a concealed handgun permit holder stopped the attacker. Read this January 2021, paper written while he was a Senior Advisor for Research and Statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy, where Dr. Lott revealed that the FBI’s active shooter incident reports from 2014 onwards contained major mistakes: “all five reports so far issued were found to have serious errors.”

More at NRA-ILA and Crime Research