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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dave Kopel: Are There Really 'More Mass Shootings Than Days in the Year'?

The answer is no and Kopel did a great job in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece yesterday explaining why that is an incorrect statement.
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut responded to last week’s Las Vegas massacre by issuing a statement in which he claimed: “Already this year there have been more mass shootings than days in the year.” That was last Monday, the 275th day of 2017. Can Mr. Murphy possibly be right? Certainly not by the ordinary definition of “mass shootings,” which includes attacks such as the one in Las Vegas this month, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in 2016, and at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999. Of late such infamous crimes have hit the national news several times a year—nowhere near a daily basis. Gun-control advocates like Mr. Murphy seek to alarm the public by exaggerating the scale of the problem.

The FBI defines “mass murder” as “four or more victims slain, in one event, in one location.” Starting with the FBI’s definition of four or more fatalities, the Congressional Research Service reported that from 1999 through 2013 there were an average of 20 to 22 mass shootings in the U.S. annually. In an average year, four of these would be “mass public shootings”—the kind that often get national media attention. Of the rest, about half were “familicides”—killings within a family or estranged family, usually taking place in a private residence. The other half were “attributable to an underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance,” such as armed robbery, gang activity, insurance fraud or romantic triangles.

The website Mass Shooting Tracker, by contrast, counted 340 mass shootings in the U.S. between New Year’s Day and last Monday—consistent with Mr. Murphy’s claim of more than one a day. The site uses a much broader definition of mass shooting: “an incident where four or more people are shot in a single shooting spree. This may include the gunman himself, or police shootings of civilians around the gunman.” Under this definition, the shootings needn’t be fatal.
But that's what gun ban groups do, they use inflated numbers to press their case in the hope of confusing the public and to push restrictions on legal gun owners.  As Kopel noted later in the op/ed, it's a major reason why a 2013 Pew Research survey found that 56% of Americans thought that crime was higher then than it was 20 years earlier.

Kopel noted that over the last 25 years, homicide involving firearms has declined by half nationwide. Additionally, overall crime involving firearms is down by three-fourths. In this same period, the American gun ownership grew by 80 million resulting in there being slightly more than one gun per person in the U.S.

Update: Kopel was on NRATV's Cam and Company Tuesday afternoon to discuss his article.

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