Review calls FBI's active shooter study 'inaccurate' and 'politically driven'

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s recent report on active shooter incidents used inaccurate information and misleading statistics, the Crime Prevention Research Center said in its review.

The FBI’s report, published last month, asserts that active shooter incidents and subsequent deaths have increased dramatically since 2000, rising each year by about 16 percent, said CPRC, headed by economist John Lott. According to further research by the group, “The FBI made a number of subtle and misleading decisions as well as outright errors,” and when taken into consideration – and more importantly, corrected – the annual growth rate of homicides resulting from active shooter incidents is about half that cited by the FBI, the review says.

When a longer time period is reviewed – like from 1977 through the first half of 2014 – the annual increase in number of deaths becomes “statistically insignificant” at less than 1 percent.

The overall abstract idea of the FBI’s report has also become clouded by both confusing wording within the report, as well as inaccurate news reports.

The FBI data reflects the trend in active shooter situations, not exclusively mass shootings. While the report discusses mass shootings, there’s no clear statement made that those incidents are not on the rise. As a result, following the release of the report, headlines screamed of a rise in mass shootings, which is not the same as active shooter situations, which often end very differently than mass shooting scenarios.

Of the 160 cases the report referenced, 32 involved a gun being fired but no loss of life, and in another 35 cases only one person was killed. In all, 42 percent of the cases were not mass shootings by the FBI’s own criteria, which must include at least three deaths in a single incident, down from four per incident previously.

While news reports often purports mass shootings and active shooter cases to be one in the same, they are in fact different, statistically speaking, and neither appear to have dramatically increased over the last decade or more.

But the FBI ensures that it has “captured the vast majority of incidents falling within the search criteria.”

Furthermore, the CPRC indicates that the specific data included – or lacking – in the FBI’s report was likely no coincidence.

Upon further review, the CPRC says it found 20 cases of mass shootings the FBI data excluded. These included an incident at a Chicago bar in which two people were killed and 21 wounded; a shooting at a Columbus concert that left four dead and seven wounded; a St. Louis office shooting that claimed two lives; and an incident at another St. Louis business in which the owner opened fire, killing three people.

All the aforementioned incidents are considered mass shootings by the FBI’s own criteria, but all incidents were left out of the FBI’s report.

By leaving out mass shootings, which typically have more casualties, in earlier years, and adding shootings in later years that have different criteria, the data appears to be skewed to indicate an upward rising trend in active shooter incidents and the number of deaths involved, the review argues.

“Clearly, the FBI report contains significant errors,” the CPRC concludes. “The FBI is not studying all the mass public shootings that occurred over the period of time and also pads it with non-mass shootings. Correcting their errors and focusing on mass public shootings cuts the size of the claimed annual increase in deaths in half. Using data back to 1977, collected in previous research, virtually eliminates any increase in mass public shootings. The FBI report appears to be politically driven.”

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