John Lott, Jr. has done an interesting study of how often armed citizens like ourselves intervene to stop mass shooters. Bottom line: The rate of successful intervention is a lot more than FBI reporting says it is, which brings up more uncomfortable questions about the agency’s political bias.
Dr. John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) has produced a report called Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2021, and Lott’s heavily documented work indicates that the FBI massively undercounted cases of defensive firearm use in the United States by ordinary citizens. The FBI reported that armed citizens thwarted 4.4% of active shooter incidents, while the CPRC found 34.4%.
Why the disparity? Well, from my chair, I would be surprised if the FBI didn’t misreport these figures. Reason? It is in the agency’s political interest to downplay how often armed civilians stop shootings. FBI stats give cover to anti-gun media to diminish how concealed carriers function on site as the real first responders. Take the case of 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken, who shot a murderer who had already killed three people at a Greenwood, Indiana, mall on July 17. If you’ll recall, Dicken stopped the mall shooter in less than 15 seconds. Dicken’s proficiency inspired the development of the Dicken Drill, which is firing 10 rounds in 15 seconds at a USPSA target at 40 yards, and getting eight hits anywhere on the target. Try it, and see how hard it is.
But Dicken was not hailed by the coastal media as a bona fide hero for his actions that day. He was a “hero,” according to CNN, with skeptical quotes around the description. More broadly, much of the immediate news coverage used FBI-approved statistics to assert that armed citizens almost never stop such attackers: “Rare in U.S. for an active shooter to be stopped by bystander” (Associated Press); “Rampage in Indiana a rare instance of armed civilian ending mass shooting” (Washington Post); and “After Indiana mall shooting, one hero but no lasting solution to gun violence” (New York Times).
So, Dr. Lott’s reporting that concealed-carrying civilians stop crimes at a rate eight times the FBI’s number is a problem because the bias presents a distorted view of the world and hides real, effective solutions.
Lott himself is charitable, saying that the FBI’s vastly underreported data are likely due to misclassified shootings and overlooked incidents. Lott also explains that many shootings in gun-free zones, such as schools, cannot be stopped by civilian protectors because the law prohibits civilians from carrying in schools. If the FBI data on civilian stoppages of mass shooters were more accurate, there might exist the political will to offer enhanced carry licenses to people who need to protect themselves and their loved ones every day.
To read more of Lott’s exceptional work, do an online search for the report title above, or visit the CPRC website.