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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.

It isn’t surprising that people will miss cases or occasionally misidentify them when using news stories, but the FBI was unwilling to fix its errors when I pointed them out. My organization, the Crime Prevention Research Center, has found many more missed cases and is keeping an updated list. Back in 2015, I published a list of missed cases in a criminology publication.

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.

While the FBI claims that just 4.6% of active shootings were stopped by law-abiding citizens carrying guns, the percentage that I found was 35.7%. I am more confident that we have identified a higher share of recent cases, and our figure for 2022 was even higher – 41.3%. …

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.

— John R. Lott Jr. in FBI Data on Active Shootings Is Misleading

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26 COMMENTS

  1. Reagan once said, ‘Never attribute to malice what can easily be explained by incompetence.’ but I think incompetence is getting to be a stretch in Washington these days.

    • “Incompetence” has been the go-to cloak for leftist malice in the 21st.

      Eg, the forecasts for (labradorite?? try for landfall, autodefect thinks labradorite is likely? Yeesh!) landfall location of Hurricane Idalia were stunningly vague – turns out Hurricane Hunters were all grounded. When has that happened before? Uh, never?

      Hmm, Bidens, Clintons, Democrats in general, vs Tallahasse, rednecks, DeSantis…

      it seemed coincidental to me in real-time. I actually did a better job predicting landfall and intensity than MSM, using readily available data. IN REAL TIME.

      I am not better than the pros are, not even close.

      Even if (this time), it really was Incompetence, bear in mind the Left is amoral, power-mad and determined to destroy any political remnant of the American Revolution. And acting stupid is working for them.

      • The fbi says gun owners are useless at stopping mass murder…they want you to say no to guns. TV talk show hosts claim a gun in the home is most likely to be used against a family member…they want you to say no to guns. Shouting democRats claim you do not need an “Assault Weapon” to kill a deer…they want you to say no to guns.

        There are many ways for Gun Control zealots to convince people to say no to guns. Those prone to fall for catchy backdoor Gun Control dribble have one thing in common…They could not Define Gun Control by its History if their lives depended on it.

  2. While the FBI claims that just 4.6% of active shootings were stopped by law-abiding citizens carrying guns, the percentage that I found was 35.7%. I am more confident that we have identified a higher share of recent cases, and our figure for 2022 was even higher – 41.3%.” — John R. Lott

    Something about, “A well armed militia being necessary for the security of a free state …” comes to mind.

    Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen: there are a LOT of bad actors among us who will steal from us whatever tickles their fancy–unless we are able to stop them.

    Note that said bad actors have and will continue to steal our time, money, property, health, dignity, bodies, and even our lives if we are unable to stop them. Plan accordingly.

    • As far as I’m concerned, even if it saves just *one* life, it’s worth it.

      Use the Fascist-Leftists ‘logic’ against them… 🙂

      • “As far as I’m concerned, even if it saves just *one* life, it’s worth it. Use the Fascist-Leftists ‘logic’ against them…”

        No, no, no, you don’t understand. If you have to harm a life in order to protect a life, you are just trading one harm for another.

        The correct attitude is that self-defense should never result in injury or death of anyone. The proper means of self-defense is to make loud, scary sounds that make everyone run away.

        But, if your loud, scary sounds result in someone being injured while running away, that is unacceptable also.

        Just relax, and let things happen, then be a good witness.

  3. Well, the FBI also stopped tracking crime in a couple dozen big cities.
    These clow show agencies need to go. If the fed is worried about the useless employees on government welfare there are plenty of freeways that need trash pickup.

    • I thought the cities stopped reporting the crime because “FBI bad” or something. I mean, they will break into your house at 6 AM and murder you for edgy memes, pics of Amazon plate carriers, and ghillie suits so they are bad, but not reporting something to the stasi seems more likely than the stasi hiding crime data.

  4. Spree killers plan their final acts as free citizens carefully. They fear being shot so much they often shoot themselves when armed resistance shows up.

    The prospect of being shot in the back before they get their evil cookies is a major bummer for them, and it complicates planning enormously.

    If 20% of the general population carry concealed, the odds of at least one embedded armed resister being in a random group of 10 potential victims (read party fodder) range upwards of 90% .

    Major deterrent to spree killing, that – armed robbery. too…

    • We will need to accept the fact that concealed carry self defense victims could get hit by “friendly fire” from other good guys with guns, mainly because we don’t know who the other law abiding concealed carriers are…..we hear gun fire say in a Walmart and then panic sets in, we see a man/woman holding a gun, we immediately think that is the “bad actor”, quickly pull out our own firearm and fire shots at the “bad actor” only to find out he was defending himself from the actual “bad actor”…..only going to get worse as more folks carry…..probably something we are going to have to accept if we are going to remain a “free” people.

      • In MOST of the videos I’ve seen, it’s USUALLY readily apparent who the bad guy is vs the good guy with a gun.

        The body language, for one, the clothing, including the ‘look alike’ dynamic entry gear worn by some of the shooters, (don’t go all ‘nitpicky’ on me, most of the readers on here will know EXACTLY what I mean,) stuff like that along with who the targets are give you a pretty good idea what is going on.

      • “… we immediately think that is the “bad actor”, quickly pull out our own firearm and fire shots at the “bad actor” …”

        Who is this “we”?

  5. garand thumb
    has a good video about the dicken drill
    elisjsha dicken
    is why i have red dots
    on all my carry pistols
    he is also why
    when i get to the pistol range
    the first thing i do is put a target up
    and send it as far down range as possible
    to see if i can quickly rack the slide
    aim and fire and get a center mass first shot
    im getting better at it
    for the most part im done
    practicing trying to get tight groups
    at 7 9 11 and 13 yards
    if i can make decent hits at 25+ yards
    (yesterday i was at 32 yards at an outdoor range)
    my hits will be more than good enough
    at closer ranges

  6. I’ll trot out this as usual.

    Read or skim this article. It is not mine; I only post this link and a short summary. Shooters stopped by civilians killed far fewer victims, because the stoppers were on the scene, whereas police had to be called, dispatched, arrive, coordinate, assess, and finally act cautiously. One begins to suspect there’s a reason Mother Jones and the police ignore shootings with fewer than 4 victims.

    https://dailyanarchist.com/2012/07/31/auditing-shooting-rampage-statistics/

    I compiled and analyzed 100 shootings, noting my methodology, and I am now prepared to present my findings, complete with links to the data.

    The average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 14.29

    The average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by a civilian is 2.33

    • Felix,

      Your 2.33 number seems very plausible.

      When you recognize that spree killers are assassins who don’t care if someone captures or kills them, you realize that it is utterly impossible to reduce the victim count to zero (regardless of whether or not the spree killer uses a firearm) because the assassin has the ginormous advantages of surprise as well as choosing the exact moment, location, and method. Reducing the average victim count to 2.33 is about as good as anyone could ever expect–even if spree killers were somehow never able to acquire firearms.

      • “Your 2.33 number seems very plausible.”

        Seems the basic problem with trying to establish the effectiveness of armed defenders is the lack of consideration of the huge disparity between the number defenders actually armed at the moment a shooting spree activates.

        If we pose that the number of concealed persons with carry permits is ~15,000,000 -20,000,000, how many are actually carrying, at any given moment? How many are carrying at the moment needed?

        Essentially, given the gun control laws, the “rarity” of a “good with a gun” being on hand at any moment is a mathematical is a certainty.

    • Sam,
      Also bear in mind, a study a while back found concealed carriers had a much higher ‘hits on target’ vs shots fired than LEOs…

      That translates (somewhat,) into less ‘collateral damage’ as well.

      • “Also bear in mind, a study a while back found concealed carriers had a much higher ‘hits on target’ vs shots fired than LEOs…”

        That’s what not having “qualified immunity” will do for you.

  7. While I enjoy, encourage, and appreciate Lott’s work, it is irrelevant to Emotionites. It is settled science that facts are racist.

  8. Caution: Counter-intuitive Truth Bomb Coming

    I am fairly convinced that spree killers who use firearms (rather than other weapons) will have the lowest average body counts if 20% of the responsible people in public carried suitable self-defense handguns. Here is why:

    A spree killer who uses a firearm gives away his/her intent immediately upon firing because firearms are LOUD. That gives unarmed people warning that something bad is happening and it is time to escape. That also gives armed defenders warning that someone bad is happening and it is time to stop the threat.

    A spree killer who uses a knife is effectively silent and no one in the vicinity knows that something bad is happening and it is time to escape. Similarly, an armed defender has no idea that it is time to stop the threat.

    That last paragraph applies to any silent method. Poison is particularly awful. And a spree killer could use archery to horrific effect–especially at crowded venues.

    I realize it is counter-intuitive to say that we actually want spree killers to use firearms rather than alternate weapons/tactics which are basically silent. Nevertheless, if we have armed defenders among us, that will yield the lowest possible body count.

  9. The FBI, along with the CDC, have ‘under-reported’ positive statistics involving firearms for a reason. This a concerted effort by the ‘Left’ to demonize firearms in order to eventually ban the private ownership of firearms. That’s why the news media rarely reports on the positive use of a firearm to stop or prevent a crime. Don’t ever trust Government statistics. We saw them use that tactic during the COVID pandemic and currently with the ‘Climate Crisis’. It is all about power and control over ‘We the People’.

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