School Shootings: Whose Numbers Do You Want To Believe?

Last week, the NRA’s favorite academic stooge, John Lott, exceeded even my expectations for the shabbiness of his research by publishing yet another screed on his favorite topic concerning the necessity to arm ourselves in order to protect each other from crime.  In this case he was talking about guns in schools and he took aim at a new report from Bloomberg which claimed that there was an average of 3 gun shootings a month since the 2013 carnage at Sandy Hook.  Here’s Lott’s criticism of the Bloomberg report:

 “their statistics are not what they seem. Included in the numbers are suicides. Also included are late night shootings taking place in school parking lots, on their grounds or even off school property, often involving gangs. As “shootings,” they also include any incident where shots were fired, even when nobody was injured.”

This comment doesn’t tell us what Lott figured out about Bloomie’s report.  It’s exactly what the report itself says.  And it says it right up front.  It says that it counted every time a gun went off in a school, whether someone was injured or not.  It says that it included suicides as well as homicides.  It says that it counted when shots were fired on school property even if the school-day had come to an end.  Lott isn’t telling his readers anything they can’t find out by simply reading the first page (actually mostly the first paragraph) of the report itself.

free schoolBut why bother to read the report?  After all, Lott has read it for you.  And he’s now told you that the report is “misleading” because it includes suicides, after-school shootings and shootings where nobody was hurt.  Now that would be “misleading” if the report simply announced that there had been 44 school shootings since Sandy Hook and Lott had actually done some real research to determine that what the report said was misleading or untrue. But Lott didn’t do any research at all.  Like me, he just read the first page of the report.

But Lott can’t just regurgitate what the Bloomberg report says and pretend he’s figured this out; he then has to throw in some of his own “research” to make his readers believe that he, as opposed to gun-grabbers like Bloomberg, has the inside track on the truth: “Contrary to what many people believe, high school shootings have been falling over the last two decades.”  Well, that may or may not be true, if only because Lott’s source for this information, the National School Safety Center, uses the same newspaper and media sources (not law enforcement) that Bloomberg used for his report.  And both the NSSC and Bloomberg admit that such data, by definition, is probably incomplete.

But notice that Lott wants you to believe that school shootings have declined even though he’s only counting shootings in high schools. nor do his numbers take suicides or shootings in elementary schools into account.  So he takes a slice of what Bloomberg counted, comes up with a smaller number and announces that his number is less!   And this isn’t shabby research?  This isn’t pandering to the NRA crowd?

I’d love to get John Lott on a stage and have a serious and public debate with him about guns.  For that matter, I’m willing to take on Lott and Mike Bloomberg at the same time.  Because both of them are playing to audiences that aren’t interested in what the other side wants to hear. And both use limited and often misleading data to score points in what never seems to be a genuinely honest debate.

Let me tell you the real problem we have with school gun violence and you won’t hear this from Mike Bloomberg or John Lott or anyone else except me.  The real problem is the number of kids who bring real guns into school but thank God they are taken away before a shot goes off. Ask any school safety administrator (as I have) when this pattern begins to appear and you’ll be told that it starts in middle school!  That’s right:  twelve-year-olds start bringing live guns into classrooms and showing them around. Twelve-year-olds.  Think about that.



4 thoughts on “School Shootings: Whose Numbers Do You Want To Believe?

  1. “[the report] says that it counted every time a gun went off in a school, whether someone was injured or not. It says that it included suicides as well as homicides. It says that it counted when shots were fired on school property even if the school-day had come to an end.”

    It may be in the report that this is what they counted, but predictably, those who will use this report – and parrot it a millions times in the media – will use it just the way Lott says. That is the real damage of the “report,” the fact that those will use it to justify gun control will predictably use its conclusions deceptively. You might remember a Josh Sugarmann quote many years ago how he deliberately used the term “assault rifle” deceptively because most people don’t the difference between a real machine gun and a semi-automatic rifle.

    Ever how it is put, this report intended to create deception and I think is fairly obvious.



    • I’m not interested in anyone who uses anything without reading it. And I’m sorry but I won’t indulge you or anyone else in defending a journalist who consciously mis-represents a report because he “knows” how it’s going to be used. You want to defend someone for doing that? You’ll be talking to yourself. I read Lott’s piece and then I read the Bloomberg report and what Lott claimed wasn’t in the report was in the very first sentence of the report. That’s shabby. Period. And if you want to defend it, go right ahead but nobody will take you seriously, at least nobody who takes the trouble to read the report.

      I’m no fan of Bloomberg. I have published at least 6 blogs criticizing him and in my first book on guns I devote an entire chapter explaining why much of his campaign isn’t credible.

      It’s very simple. You say something wrong and I’m going to call you on it. And I’m not going to overlook it because you’re pro-gun, or anti-gun or whatever you are. Either we say what’s true or we don’t. And if we don’t there’s no excuse for it. None. Period.

  2. “I’m not interested in anyone who uses anything without reading it.”

    So when the mainstream media predictably misquotes the Bloomberg “study”, you’re not interested… That’s hardly an argument. Bloomberg and many of the researchers his private dollars support excel at creating “studies” that are designed to be misinterpreted by the media, so that the researchers can state the “facts” and the media can create the lies. So much so, that Bloomberg’s funded Johns Hopkins researchers go as far as publishing academic articles advising the new media on how to report on mass shootings to shift attention from “serious mental illness” to “dangerous weapons”

    It’s quite typical for anti-gun researchers to add “word bites” in large font to their articles that are designed for the media to pick up and publish, even though the “word bites” are speculations not supported by the research itself.

    Bloomberg’s tirade about NRA suppression of research on gun control comes from a distortion of the facts, which Lott points out. “Gun Violence” research articles declined as a percentage of all medical publications, but the absolute number of such articles increased, mostly funded by private sources. Almost 2/3 of all medical research is funded by private sources – why should all “gun violence” research be funded by tax dollars?

    Between Lott and Bloomberg – where is the intent to deceive? I say Bloomberg.

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