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New York Times Mischaracterizes New FBI Report

Posted on September 26, 2014

Things have sure changed at the New York Times. In 1863, the newspaper used a Gatling gun to scare off a mob of draft protestors. Today, it can't resist the temptation to put an anti-gun spin on things any chance it gets.

This week, the Times ran an article titled "FBI Confirms a Sharp Rise in Mass Shootings Since 2000," which claimed that a report recently released by the FBI found that "Mass shootings have risen dramatically in the past half-dozen years."

Say what? Come again?

The FBI's report is titled A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the U.S. Between 2000 and 2013. As the title indicates, the report deals with "active shooter incidents," which the FBI describes as situations involving "an individual [or individuals] actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people." The purpose of the report, the FBI says, is to "provide federal, state, and local law enforcement with data so they can better understand how to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from these incidents."

While "mass shootings" are generally considered to be those with four of more murder victims, the FBI's report is mostly concerned with crimes involving between zero and three such victims. Of the 160 crimes FBI considered, 45 (28 percent) had four or more murder victims, 19 (12 percent) had three, 29 (18 percent) had two, 36 (23 percent) had one, and 31 (19 percent) had none. Additionally, only 98 (61 percent) had four or more fatal and non-fatal victims combined.

Also, as the FBI notes, its report doesn't include crimes committed without firearms. Anti-gun groups would like the public to believe that all mass murders are committed with firearms, but many such crimes are committed by other means. For example, USA Today has reported that between 2006 and 2013, there were at least 61 mass murders, with at least 286 victims, which were committed with knives or bludgeons, or by arson, drowning, strangulation or suffocation. By comparison, for the same period, the FBI's report includes only 34 mass murders, with 272 victims, which were committed with firearms.

Additionally, the FBI notes, "shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence--pervasive, long-tracked, criminal acts that could also affect the public--were not included in this study." Thus, the FBI ignored at least 116 felony-related murders with four or more victims between 2000 and 2013, resulting in the murders of at least 498 people.

Moreover, the FBI didn't include mass shootings that took place between 1949 and 1999, a decision that would affect a long-term trend line for such crimes. And, curiously, it didn't even include the April 9, 2002, murders of five people in Toms River, New Jersey, by a police officer using a police department submachinegun and pistol, and the October 3, 2002, murders of five people in Montgomery County, Maryland, by the so-called "D.C. Snipers."

However, the FBI report makes three things clear. First, contrary to what anti-gun groups are trying to get the American people to believe, murders that have four or more victims, whether committed with firearms or by other means, are the exception, not the rule. Second, the recent trend in such crimes has been skewed by a very small number of crimes with high casualty counts, committed by deranged individuals and, in one case, a person with jihadist sympathies.

Third, the FBI recognizes that private citizens faced with an "active shooter" can sometimes successfully intervene to bring the crime to a halt. "Of the 160 incidents, at least 107 (66.9%) ended before police arrived and could engage the shooter, either because a citizen intervened, the shooter fled, or the shooter committed suicide or was killed by someone at the scene," the FBI said.

Presumably, today's New York Times would reject the FBI's conclusion, and instead advise those who are under attack to cower, beg for mercy, or run, leaving other victims to fend for themselves. Of course, that's not what the Times did in 1863, and it's not always the best advice today.