• Surprise: Problems with Widely Touted Anti-Gun Research

    From Gene Poole@21:1/5 to All on Wed Jul 31 07:22:33 2019
    XPost: alt.freespeech, alt.survival, alt.politics.usa.constitution
    XPost: soc.retirement

    “I am not interested in giving any serious thought to John Lott
    or his claims.”

    Those are the words of University of Alabama associate professor
    Adam Lankford in response to Fox News after economist John Lott
    called Lankford’s highly publicized study into question.

    Lankford’s study was published in 2016 but was touted by
    President Obama and a fawning media anxious for any “evidence”
    that gun ownership is somehow evil even before it was officially
    published. Lankford’s anti-gun perspective is evident early on
    in his paper. His eighth paragraph starts, “Less positive may be
    the fact that, according to a comparative study of 178
    countries, the United States ranks first in gun ownership…”

    Despite all of the attention it received, Lankford’s study is
    troublesome. He claims to have found that 31% of global mass
    shooters attacked in the United States between 1966 and 2012. He
    states that the U.S. suffered 90 offenders during this period
    while only four other countries had more than nine offenders.
    Obama took this alleged finding and ran with it, claiming “The
    one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass
    shooting in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in
    the world.”

    The problem is that Lankford’s study is lazy and sloppy, if not
    deliberately limited. He used the New York Police Department’s
    2012 Active Shooter report supplemented with the FBI’s 2014
    Active Shooter Report and “data gathered on incidents from other
    countries.” Lankford used the same methodology as the NYPD to
    gather additional information.

    The NYPD only used open-source material – i.e., Google. They
    didn’t use subscription-based research services like LexisNexis,
    government databases, or any of the resources available to
    professors at well-funded world class universities. The “NYPD
    limited its internet searches to English-language sites,
    creating a strong sampling bias against international
    incidents.” That methodology works for the NYPD’s purpose of
    developing recommendations for risk mitigation but it doesn’t
    work for a cross-national study because most of the world speaks
    a language other than English. The FBI 2014 Active Shooter
    report was limited to incidents in the United States.

    President Obama and others eager for anything that casts gun
    ownership as fundamentally dangerous took Lankford’s 31% claim
    at face value. Other researchers, academics, and journalists who
    questioned Lankford’s work – or even asked to see his data –
    were rebuffed by the UA professor.

    John Lott thought that 31% seemed high, so he asked if Lankford
    would share his dataset – a common courtesy among academics and
    researchers. Lankford refused. Repeatedly. Lankford also refused
    to explain how he measured (or counted) mass shootings. Lankford
    refused to tell journalists how he collected his data, despite
    his claim that he found complete data for 171 countries –
    somehow without using foreign language sources. Journalists at
    Real Clear Politics asked Lankford questions about his
    methodology and for access to his raw data; he refused.
    Lankford’s paper does not include a list of the number of
    shooters in each country, only providing the totals for five
    countries including the United States.

    So Lott built his own dataset using the University of Maryland
    Global Terrorism Database, Nexis, and web searches for mass
    shootings. Lott hired people who spoke foreign languages to help
    with this effort. Unlike Lankford, Lott provides the search
    terms he used as well as a list of the cases in his dataset.
    Lott has been as transparent as possible with his study and even
    acknowledges that his monumental effort likely undercounts
    shootings in foreign countries due to current and historical
    news coverage of such events in the developing world. Lott
    looked at the years 1998-2012, likely to ensure the availability
    of better data.

    Lott found at least fifteen times more mass public shooters than
    Lankford in less than a third the number of years (1998-2012).
    Lankford claimed to find 292 mass public shooters over 47 years
    while Lott found more than 10,000 such shooters around the world
    in the last 15 years. Professor Carl Moody at the College of
    William & Mary confirmed Lott’s counts for The Washington Times
    and added, “By the way, anybody can do this. The GTD database is
    free and available to all.”

    Lott’s most important finding is that 1.43% of mass public
    shooters attacked in the United States. That is starkly
    different than Lankford’s 31% claim. Lott extended his work to
    the number of attacks and found that 2.88% of mass public
    shootings between 1998 and 2012 were in the United States.

    Since Lott’s paper was published, his findings have been covered
    in The Washington Timesand in a comprehensive article on
    RealClearPolitics.com that touches on the importance of allowing
    other researchers or journalists to verify one’s data (including
    infamous cases within the context of firearms-related research).

    Lankford’s conclusion – that reducing gun ownership would reduce
    mass shootings – falls apart when one considers the undercounted
    foreign cases. One would hope – even expect – that a professor
    would give serious thought to valid questions about his work and
    to more comprehensive studies that refute his findings. Petty,
    dismissive, and evasive answers do not reflect poorly on the
    genuine questions raised or those asking them.

    https://www.nraila.org/articles/20180907/surprise-problems-with- widely-touted-anti-gun-research

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