New Study: USA Below Average in Mass Public Shootings

   09.01.20

New Study: USA Below Average in Mass Public Shootings

Crime Prevention Research Institute, the nonprofit aggregator of crime- and gun-related statistics led by John Lott of Tennessee, just released a new data analysis that should be music to the ears of gun owners. With high and growing rates of gun ownership, the United States of America, according to this new study, enjoyed below-average incidents of mass public shootings from the two decades 1998-2017.

The abstract states:

Over the 20 years from 1998 to 2017, our list contains 2,772 attacks and at least 5,764 shooters outside the United States and 62 attacks and 66 shooters within our country.  By our count, the US makes up less than 1.13% of the mass public shooters, 1.77% of their murders, and 2.19% of their attacks. All these are much less than the US’s 4.6% share of the world population. Attacks in the US are not only less frequent than other countries, they are also much less deadly on average.

Out of the 101 countries where we have identified mass public shootings occurring, the United States ranks 66th in  per capita frequency of these attacks and 56th in the murder rate.

Not only have these attacks been much more common outside the USA, the USA’s share of these attacks has declined over time. There has been a much bigger increase over time in the number of mass shootings in the rest of the world compared to the USA.

The study uses the FBI definition of a mass shooting. It must have taken place in a public area, with at least four people killed, not including perpetrators. The data excludes gang-related killings, the sort of which have become commonplace in some American neighborhoods.

Gathering data on international incidents is not easy when other governments and organizations define crimes differently. To read this study is to gain a glimpse into the challenges statisticians face. Lott’s team opted for the useful distinction of mass murder attacks per 100,000 people, versus deaths per million.

The top 10 countries in the lists appear mostly as repeats, but with different ranks. Though the Northern Mariana Islands rarely appear in corporate news, they top the attacks list. The Central African Republic occupies the sad position of number one for deaths.

Where does the United States appear? We rank 59th for mass shooting murders, with a rate of 0.188. The USA stands in 66th place for attacks, with a rate of 0.021. Western Europe delivers some surprising data. Norway, Finland, France, and Switzerland have at least 49 percent higher rates of murder from mass public shootings than the United States. Indeed, France’s rate is 48.9 percent higher than that of the United States. Rates in Pakistan and India are respectively 470% and 13% higher than the USA rate.

Longtime gun owners won’t be surprised by this study. In terms of rates of private gun ownership, the United States of America rules, at least by official data, rules the planet. But our nation’s relatively obscure ranking on this chart is proof that so-called gun violence has little relationship to the presence of guns in citizens’ homes and hands.

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