6/09/2015

Wall Street Journal: Authors of FBI Report on Public Shootings admit “our data is imperfect"

Jason Riley picture
For months I had tried getting a response from the Department of Justice and the authors of a FBI report on "active shooters" regarding errors that the CPRC had found. I then published a research in the March 2015 issue of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. That finally got a response from two of the FBI study's authors, Pete Blair and M. Hunter Martaindale, last week. Jason Riley's article in the Wall Street Journal describes their response:
. . . But late last week, J. Pete Blair and M. Hunter Martaindale, two academics at Texas State University who co-authored the FBI report, acknowledged that “our data is imperfect.” They said that the news media “got it wrong” last year when they “mistakenly reported mass shootings were on the rise.” 
Mind you, the authors did not issue this mea culpa in the major news outlets that supposedly misreported the original findings. Instead, the authors published it in ACJS Today, an academic journal published by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. . . . 
John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center—who has studied FBI crime data for three decades—told me in an interview that the FBI report is better understood as a political document than as a work of serious social science. For example, the authors chose the year 2000 as their starting point “even though anyone who has studied these trends knows that 2000 and 2001 were unusually quiet and had few mass shootings.” Data going back to the mid-1970s is readily available but was ignored. How come? Over the past 40 years, there has been no statistically significant increase in mass shootings in the U.S. 
Another problem with the study: The data used seemed selectively chosen to achieve certain results. The researchers somehow “missed 20 mass-shooting cases,” Mr. Lott said. “There’s one case where nine people were murdered. You just don’t miss that.” Also, the omissions helped create an “upward trend, because they were primarily missed at the beginning of the period.” This, he said, “is disturbing.” 
Mr. Lott told me that he had reached out repeatedly to the FBI and to the authors for an explanation after the original report came out, but none was forthcoming until last week. The Journal recently described Mr. Obama’s tenure as the “least transparent administration in history,” and the White House seems to have no interest in proving its critics wrong. . . .

2 Comments:

Blogger Christian Lowe said...

John,

As you know, I respect your research and your insight into the relationship between crime and firearms ownership. But to rely on Riley's story is disingenuous. You need to rebut what Blair and Hunter really said in their ACJS article -- that you created a straw man with your criticism of them...that they were looking at active shooter incidents not mass public shootings, despite the fact that media reported their findings as being related to "mass shootings." In a multi-page rebuttal of your criticism, they devote two sentences to the notion that their information is "imperfect," while the rest of the article is a full-throated defense of their findings.

Attack their rebuttal, don't hide behind Riley's bad reporting. I want you to win this argument with your own facts...

Christian Lowe

6/11/2015 8:15 AM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Seriously? You obviously haven't taken the time to read the article by me that they were responding to. I clearly dealt with "active shooters" in my ACJS piece. As Jason Riley points out, Blair and Hunter also didn't seem to be bothered trying to correct the media's misimpression of the report. The only misinformation here is
1) I pointed out that the media misunderstood their claim, that it obviously wasn't clearly stated.
2) I spent a great deal of time discussing active shooter data. My point was clearly that the way that they measured active shooters produced a bias.

6/14/2015 2:29 PM  

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