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Firearms Researcher Dr. John Lott: FBI Is Deliberately Misleading Americans on Defensive Gun Use

AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File

The FBI is going off the rails.

Rogue federal agencies are probably the greatest threat to the liberty of the American people. They present more of a threat than drug cartels or terrorists because they operate under the pretext of law and have a legal monopoly on the initial use of force to compel compliance.

Now, Dr. John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of "Gun Control Myths," is exposing how the FBI may well be deliberately misleading the American people on how often armed Americans really do stop active shooter incidents. Dr. Lott points out that there are a number of problems with how the FBI gathers and presents this data, starting with how shootings are defined and categorized.

The FBI defines active shooter incidents as those in which an individual actively kills or attempts to kill people in a populated, public area. But it does not include shootings that are deemed related to other criminal activity, such as robbery or fighting over drug turf. Active shootings may involve just one shot being fired at just one target, even if the target isn’t hit. 

To compile its list, the FBI hired academics at the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University. Police departments don’t collect data, so the researchers had to find news stories about these incidents.

Did you get that? They relied on a third-hand source to gather data, data that will be presented to try to influence policy. To call this sloppy work is the grossest of understatements. Dr. Lott's organization did its own research and, unsurprisingly, came up with a different result.

Unfortunately, the news media unquestioningly reports the FBI numbers. After 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken used his legally-carried concealed handgun to stop what would have been a mass public shooting, an Associated Press headline noted: “Rare in US for an active shooter to be stopped by bystander.” A Washington Post headline proclaimed: “Rampage in Indiana a rare instance of armed civilian ending mass shooting.”

The CPRC’s numbers tell a different story: Out of 440 active shooter incidents from 2014 to 2022, an armed citizen stopped 157. We also found that the FBI had misidentified five cases, usually because the person who stopped the attack was incorrectly identified as a security guard. 

We found these cases on a budget of just a few thousand dollars. Though we found that armed citizens had stopped eight times as many cases as the FBI claims, I make no assertion that we unearthed all of these stories. It is quite possible that the news media itself never covers many such incidents.

I would say that it's not only quite possible but indeed quite likely that the news media never covers many such incidents, but not having done my own research, I will defer to Dr. Lott on this. But it's undeniable that the FBI and the legacy media are badly underestimating and under-reporting the numbers of active shooters taken down by armed citizens, just as they do other incidents of defensive gun use.

This is another example of the FBI's ongoing deterioration, devolving from what was once a premier law enforcement agency to a barely concealed advocacy group for ever-more-intrusive government policy. They have acted in many cases as the political Left's enforcement arm against such disparate groups as Catholics and elderly protestors. The FBI has arguably gone rogue, and the answer may well be to simply defund the agency, disband it, and start from scratch. There is, after all, already a Federal law-enforcement arm that predates the FBI by many years - the U.S. Marshals - and they do not appear (yet) to suffer from the failures in leadership that are plaguing the FBI.

Dr. Lott concluded:

The FBI data on active shootings is missing so many defensive gun uses that it’s hard to believe it isn’t intentional. Errors can happen, but the failure to fix past reports shows a troubling disregard for the truth. The reality is that armed, law-abiding citizens are unsung guardian angels.

Dr. Lott is correct; it is difficult to believe that these omissions, this sloppy data-gathering—these misleading conclusions—are not deliberate. It staggers the belief that the Federal government, through the FBI, is concocting favorable data to try to push certain policies. This is absolutely anathema to the very idea of a free country inhabited by free people. We should be able to rely on a federal agency, funded by our taxpayer dollars, to conduct honest, rigorous analyses of subjects within their purview and to report the results of these analyses honestly. It is becoming abundantly clear that this is no longer possible. Fortunately, we have private groups, like Dr. Lott's CPRC, to take that task on.

While Dr. Lott's presentation of more believable data is useful and important, it's important to remember that there is only one piece of data we need when it comes to considering firearms policy:

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

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