People attend a funeral ceremony in Kerch, Crimea, on Oct. 19, 2018, after a student opened fire at a technical college and 20 people were killed. (Andrey Petrenko/Getty-AFP)
John Lott Jr.
"This doesn't happen anywhere else on the planet," said California's Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom. "We stand alone in the world in the number of mass shootings," echoed U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. These were typical comments after an alleged shooter murdered 12 people in Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
People have been acting for a long time like the United States is the world's hotbed of mass public shootings. Following a 2015 mass shooting during his administration, President Barack Obama declared: "The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world."
This belief is constantly used to push for more gun control. If we can only get rid of guns in the United States, we will get rid of these mass public shootings and be more like the rest of the world, gun-control supporters preach.
But America doesn't lead the world in mass public shootings. We're not even close. Just last month, a school shooting in Crimea, Russia, claimed 20 lives and wounded 65 others. But Americans usually don't hear about such events.
The Crime Prevention Research Center, of which I am president, recently finished updating a list of mass public shootings worldwide. These shootings must claim four or more lives in a public place. Following the FBI definition, the shootings we list are carried out simply with the intention of killing. We exclude gang fights because they tend to be motivated by battles for drug turf. Murders that arise from other crimes are also excluded.
Then there are politically motivated attacks, either by or against governments. Some shootings occur in the course of guerrilla wars for sovereignty. These attacks do not meet our definition. This meant excluding a lot of very deadly shootings such as those in the Russian-Chechen conflict. The Russian Beslan School siege of Sept. 1, 2004, left 385 dead and another 783 wounded. In a three-day siege of the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow in 2002, 130 were killed and more than 450 were wounded.
Over the course of 18 years, from 1998 to 2015, our list contains 2,354 attacks and at least 4,880 shooters outside the United States and 53 attacks and 57 shooters within this country. By our count, the U.S. makes up 1.49 percent of the murders worldwide, 2.20 percent of the attacks, and less than 1.15 percent of the mass public shooters. All these are much less than America's 4.6 percent share of the world population.
Of the 97 countries where we identified mass public shootings, the U.S. ranks 64th per capita in its rate of attacks and 65th in fatalities. Major European countries, such as Norway, Finland, France, Switzerland and Russia, all have at least 25 percent higher per capita murder rates from mass public shootings.
While Americans are rightly concerned by the increased frequency and severity of mass public shootings, the rest of the world is experiencing much larger increases in per capita rates of attack. The frequency of foreign mass public shootings since 1998 has grown 291 percent faster than in the U.S.
The media bias on this is overwhelming. Even after President Donald Trump again raised the danger of gun-free zones, the news media still refuse to mention this fact in its reporting of mass shootings. The attack earlier this month at Borderline Bar & Grill occurred in a gun-free zone. Unlike in 39 states, concealed handgun permit holders in California are banned from carrying permitted concealed handguns into bars. The mass shooting Monday at Chicago's Mercy Hospital & Medical Center in Bronzeville was at a place where law-abiding citizens were banned from having guns.
Most gunmen are smart enough to know that they can kill more people if they attack places where victims can't defend themselves. That's one reason why 98 percent of mass public shootings since 1950 have occurred in places where citizens are banned from having guns.
The national media tend to ignore case after case of mass public shootings being stopped by armed private citizens. Just a couple of days before the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh a concealed handgun permit holder stopped an alleged killer who was shooting blacks at a Kroger grocery store in Louisville, Ky.
National media outlets such as ABC and NBC covered the attack, noting that the alleged gunman told another white man that: "Whites don't kill whites." It sounded as if the gunman was merely reassuring a bystander that he had nothing to worry about. But reporters left out the crucial first part of the quote. The killer said: "Don't shoot me. I won't shoot you. Whites don't shoot whites." The other white person was pointing a permitted concealed handgun at the killer.
It is understandable that the media dosn´t cover most mass public shootings in other countries. But as much as it might not fit the media's narrative, the U.S. is a relatively safe place from these shooting attacks. Still, we need to let people protect themselves and each other. We need to get rid of gun-free zones.
John R. Lott Jr. is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of "The War on Guns."
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