- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2014

The July report by billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s funded gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety is “riddled with errors,” including mistakes in the number of shootings reported, the extent of the shooter’s mental illness and even where the attacks occurred, according to an analysis by gun researcher John Lott.

Since 2009 through mid-July of this year, there have been 25 mass shootings — compared with Everytown’s claim of at least 110 — 8 percent have happened in places that have allowed civilians to defend themselves, and 52 percent of time there was a clear indication of mental illness before the attack, says the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) report.

“Everytown’s recent analysis of mass shootings is riddled with errors,” wrote Mr. Lott, president of CPRC, in its abstract dated Sept. 30, released to The Washington Times.

“Those errors occurred because they did not do a complete news search on each case,” he wrote. “They made simple accounting errors and included cases that did not fit their claimed criteria. Also, their arbitrary definition of ‘assault weapons’ seems chosen to obtain the results that fit their ideological agenda. Their numbers should not be relied on for any type of policy analysis.”

In July, Everytown released a report titled “The Real Story of Mass Shootings in America,” finding that since January 2009 there have been at least 110 mass shootings in the U.S, 14 percent were committed in gun-free zones, and 11 percent of the perpetrators exhibited signs of mental illness.

The discrepancy between Mr. Lott’s findings and Everytown’s analysis highlights the dearth of objective gun-related data by non-partisan organizations or think-tanks. Everytown’s analysis has been stated as fact by President Barack Obama and other gun-control advocates to pursue their ideological agenda, even as independent fact-checkers have debunked many of its claims.

Mr. Lott’s research, on the other hand, is often decried as biased to the right, as many of his studies are used by the National Rifle Association to pursue their lobbying agenda and he himself is a gun-rights advocate.

“John Lott is a widely discredited ideologue and his research cannot be taken seriously,” said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokesperson at Everytown, in response to Mr. Lott’s analysis.

Everytown includes in its 110 figure that some of the 74 school shootings it identified in a previous study occurred between the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy in December 2012 and June 2014. However, research done by both Mr. Lott and Politifact, the Tampa Bay Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checker, deemed incorrect Everytown’s claim that 74 shootings occurred between the Newtown, Connecticut, tragedy in December 2012 and June 2014.

Mr. Lott said Everytown included in its school-shooting figures acts of gang violence, drug dealing and robberies connected near schools or on school grounds even when they were not in session.

For example, Everytown included a case in Iowa where a man killed himself in the school’s parking lot in the middle of the night, and another case where there was an early morning armed robbery on a street running through a campus.

“Attackers who try to kill students at a school are quite different from gang members fighting over drug turf or residential murderers who kill family members,” and thus, shouldn’t be classified as the same, Mr. Lott said.

Everytown countered they used FBI’s definition of a mass shooting, which is any incident in which at least four people were murdered with a gun.

The group has hailed its mass-shooting analysis as significant because it debunked gun-right advocates claims that as more people arm themselves for defense, the less criminal violence there will be.

Of the mass shootings recognized in Everytown’s study: “Only a small minority — 14 percent — took place in public spaces where guns could not be carried, or so-called ‘gun-free zones.’ Seventy percent of the 110 incidents took place in private residences,” the report found.

Mr. Lott said including private residences skews the data and proves nothing because a distinction needs to be made between what motivates mass public shooters who are committing their crimes to get media attention and those who engage in private attacks. Also, in residential attacks by family members, the attacker may likely know whether a gun is owned in the home or where the gun in the home is stored, lowering both its deterrence and self-defense effect, Mr. Lott argues.

In compiling their data, Everytown also ignores state-by-state concealed carry laws — many of which prohibit individuals from carrying — and that allowing police to carry guns isn’t the same thing as arming citizens in terms of deterring mass-shooters, Mr. Lott said.

To declare “may issue” states “gun-free zones” as Mr. Lott characterizes them is a falsehood, Everytown counters, because every law-abiding citizen is able to obtain and carry permits, even if it is at the behest of lawmakers.

Lastly, unlike Everytown, Mr. Lott concludes “about half of mass public shootings involve cases where the mental health of the shooter was brought to the attention of a medical practitioner, school official, or legal authority prior to the shooting.”

Everytown’s 10 percent figure was drawn from including gang shootings, and plainly ignoring other cases, either through a lack of information or research, Mr. Lott said. For example, Ka Pasasouk, who murdered four people in Northridge, California, two years ago, underwent a psychiatric evaluation in prison because of concerns over his behavior, which wasn’t identified as a mental health example by Everytown.

Everytown responded saying: “Lott cites cases in which the shooter may have suffered from mental illness but there is no evidence any indication was given to ‘a medical practitioner, school official, or legal authority prior to the shooting,’ as defined by their report.”

Mr. Lott said Everytown’s report also failed to provide information on the killer’s age for many people in its report, and even for the ages it did report, it made a mistake in calculating the average. In its rebuttal, Everytown said it was calculating the median age, not average.

“Everytown has done an abysmal job in putting together their data on mass shootings,” Mr. Lott said. “We have not tried to analyze all of their claims, so there may well exist other mistakes in their data.”

• Kelly Riddell can be reached at kriddell@washingtontimes.com.

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