Why Hide Your Sources?


One of the more important claims in the gun-control debate is that the United States has more mass public shootings than any other countries. I’m sure you’ve heard that reported on gun-ignorant major media outlets. But as John R. Lott, Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center points out in a new video, conventional TV wisdom on this topic is likely misinformed — but we can’t find out for sure.

Lott says, “A paper on mass public shootings by Adam Lankford (2016) has received massive national and international media attention, getting coverage in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, plus hundreds of other news outlets spanning at least 35 different countries. Lankford’s claim was that over the 47 years from 1966 to 2012, an enormous amount of the world’s mass public shootings — 31% — occurred in the United States. Lankford attributed this to America’s gun ownership.”

Lott goes on to explain that Lankford claims to have “complete” data on such shooters in 171 countries. “However, because he has neither identified the cases nor their location nor even a complete description on how he put the cases together, it is impossible to replicate his findings,” Lott said.

It is particularly important that Lankford share his data because of the extreme difficulty in finding mass-shooting cases in remote parts of the world going back to 1966. Lack of media coverage could easily lead to under-counting of foreign mass shootings, which would falsely lead to the conclusion that the U.S. has such a large share, Lott points out.

Adam Lankford is a criminology professor at The University of Alabama. This reminds me of the claims by Michael A. Bellesiles, then a history professor at Emory University in Atlanta, who claimed that there were few guns and gun owners in early America. He, too, initially refused to allow others to corroborate his findings, and his book Arming America was later proved to be fraudulent.

Given the massive U.S. and international media attention Lankford’s work has received, and given the considerable impact his research has had on the debate, his unwillingness to provide even the most basic information to other researchers raises real concerns about Lankford’s motives, in my estimation.

You can view John Lott’s video on John Stossel’s YouTube channel.


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