The FBI release on Sept 24, 2014, a review of mass shootings from 2000 until 2013. The announcement has drawn a great deal of attention, especial from the supporters of gun restriction legislation. But the data deserves closer attention than the hype some have place on the statistics.
In a brief overview, the FBI has determined that since 2000 there has been a trend of increase in mass shooting. There were 160 incidents in the 13 year period reviewed, with an average of 11.4 incidents per year. There were a total of 1,043 people that were either injured or killed as a result of these incidents. The FBI report does not include the shooters in the injured/killed data, and a mass shooting is defined as single events where 4 or more individuals were shot and/or killed.
According to the report, in the last 7 years up to 2013, the number of mass shooting incidents increased vs. the prior 7 years – a total of 16.4 incidents per year vs. the previous 6.4 per year. This is a significant trend which many might find troubling. But there is a potential issue that arises from the data as well.
A question that should be asked is why the timeframe of the report is from 2000 to 2013? The FBI has stated this was
“To provide our law enforcement partners—normally the first responders on the scene of these dangerous and fast-moving events—with data that will help them to better prepare for and respond to these incidents, saving more lives and keeping themselves safer in the process.”
This is of course a logical reason for the report. But why not a 10 year report? Why not 20 years? Or 15? 13 years is an odd figure that doesn’t fit easily into any planning systems that most law enforcement agencies plan out in 5 or 10 year periods. Why didn’t the FBI wait 2 years to make a 15 year study, or start the data review from 2 years earlier?
In addition, the trend indicated is based on relatively short period compare to the totality of data available. According to our research in our article – How rampant are mass shootings, in 2013, the findings of Professor James Alan Fox, of Northwestern University, indicated
“Over the thirty-year time frame, an average of about 20 mass murders have occurred annually in the United States with an average death toll of about 100 per year.”
This is important because Professor Fox used the same definition and criteria used by the FBI to come to his findings. The difference in results lies directly in the amount of time used to understand the trend. According to the FBI mass shootings are on the rise, but 30 year data indicates that the trend is in fact decreasing. This remains true even if only the most recent 7 year period is compared to the trend over 30 years.
Based on this contradiction in facts (with the only factors differing are 3 years and the total range of data looked at), the query leads us back to the question asked previously why did the FBI pick 13 years and 7 years? One reason may be that the answer sought can only be attained if the data is organized in this manner. It’s an old political trick that very specific figures and data are quoted because it provides the answer/justification that suits the position of the politician quoting the data. The FBI would appear to be using the same trick.
If this is the case, which would fall in line with the gun restriction position of the Obama Administration, then it is a manipulation of facts to serve a political end. If this is the case this would be tantamount to lying to the public. Clarification from the FBI on why such an exclusive data set was used, or why a more complete statistic based on the 33 year data trend available was not included, needs to be determined.
Over the past 13 years fewer mass shooting (by 8.6 incidents/year) and fewer injuries and murders as a result of these shootings (by 20 people/year) than is the 30 year historical average have occurred. That decrease in gun violence includes, and remains true, if only the past 7 years is considered. This is without gun restriction legislation promoted by Gov. Cuomo (a 2011 NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services report indicated the second lowest rate of firearm violence in a decade), President Obama and VP Joe Biden. But this will not reach the headlines of any of the major media – even though it is supported by facts omitted by the most recent FBI report.
The conclusion would seem to be that the FBI, for the benefit of a specific political agenda, has packaged a set of statistics that appear to imply an outcome not supported by a review of the totality of available data. The consequence of course will be a renewed effort to restrict assault weapons and impede the 2nd Amendment. It will likely also stimulate the continued backdoor effort to revoke gun permits and ownership via National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS), H Amd 704, and HR 4660 (as we noted in our article – House of Representatives passes Bill, enables restriction of 2nd Amendment right).