At the Daily Caller: What Is The Religion Of Mass Public Shooters?

I have a new op-ed at The Daily Caller on the religious views of those who commit mass public shootings.  The piece starts this way:
After the attack at the Santa Fe High School, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick denounced a loss of faith and religion in society. While the news media puts the lives of these mass public killers under a microscope, collecting any information that can be gleaned about their childhoods from their family and friends and social media history, researchers have ignored the religious views of these killers.
What is most shocking is how few of these killers appear to be religious, let alone Christian. Just 16 percent have any type of religious affiliation at the time of their attacks, with a slight majority of those being Muslims.
Over just over 20 years from the beginning of January 1998 through today, there have been 69 killers committing 66 mass public shootings in the United States where at least four people have been killed. Of those attacks, just four have been identified as Christians, with just three clearly regular churchgoers. With 70 percent of Americans identifying themselves as Christians and over 33 percent going to church at least once a week, those numbers are a long way away from the 48 or 23 we would respectively expect.
These Christians included:
Mitchell Johnson, who was one of two boys who attacked their middle school in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998. Johnson reportedly dreamed as a child of becoming a minister.
Terry Ratzmann, a regular church attendee who shot up his church in Wisconsin in 2005. Ratzmann was a member of a “most extreme of the many offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God,” which is itself well outside of Christian mainstream. Among their beliefs is that “man’s destiny is to become God as God is God.”
Dylann Roof attacked the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. As a kid, Roof went to his Lutheran church’s camp and had participated in many church activities. But besides acknowledging that Roof was still a member of the church, the minister and Roof’s family members refused to answer questions on how often Roof had attended the church or if had been there recently.
Dimitrios Pagourtziskilled 10 people at the Santa Fe High School in Texas this past Friday. Pagourtzis has been a member of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Five other killers were raised as Christians, but they moved away from the faith as they got older. It gives one an idea of the extreme detail that the media goes into on people’s religious views. For example, Micah Xavier Johnson, who shot the five police officers in Dallas in 2016, according to his parents, lost his faith after serving in Afghanistan. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, was raised as a Christian, but he resented his parents “strong Christian faith.” Any religious involvement during their lives has been of interest in all the news stories on these attacks.
Muslims make up a slightly disproportionately large share of these attacks. Even though they make up less than one percent of the US population, they account for 8.7 percent of these killers (six in total) and more than the number of Christians. This rate is a much lower than what we observe in the world as a whole where Muslims have committed 23 of the 25 worst mass public shootings since 1970 and 42 of the 50 worst attacks. . . . .
The rest of the piece is available here.



At The Hill Newspaper: Locking guns won't do anything to save lives

Note: At the end of this piece, we have included responses to an attack on Dr. Lott's article.
I have a new piece at The Hill newspaper on the current debate over whether people should lock up the guns in their homes.  The op-ed starts this way:
After Friday'sattack at Santa Fe High School, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick forcefully told people of their “responsibility” to lock up their guns.We all want to do something, but everyone locking up their guns will cost more lives than it saves.
Santa Fe High School had received an award for school safety but it was helpless to stop this latest nightmare. We need to rethink school safety.  Despite this year’s attacks, deaths from school shootings have actually declined over the last few decades. Still, that doesn't take away at all from the seriousness of the problem we face.
Lt. Gov. Patrick was just giving people advice. By contrast, gun control advocates always want to use laws to force their solutions on others. Since the Santa Fe killer apparently took his father’s guns, a number of gun control advocates have proposed to hold parents like him criminally liable; any gun owner would face criminal charges for leaving his gun unlocked or failing to keep it under his immediate possession.
Other shootings have involved guns stolen from parents. In 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza stole his mother’s gun and subsequently killed her.She kept the gun in a safe, so a new law wouldn’t have mattered there. Since 2000, there have been two additional mass public shootings in the U.S. where a juvenile killed at least four people.
Gun control advocates claim that gunlocks will also reduce children’s accidental gun deaths. Unfortunately, the problem is more complicated. Mandating that people lock up their guns can have unintended consequences.
According to my research, published in the Journal of Law and Economics and elsewhere, requiring individuals to lock up their guns in certain states made it more difficult for those people to successfully defend their families. Such laws emboldened criminals to attack more people in their homes; there were 300 more total murders and 4,000 more rapes occurring each year in the states with these laws. Burglaries also rose dramatically.
That is not particularly surprising given that crime rises when we impede people from protecting themselves. Indeed, every place in the world that has banned guns has seen an increasein murder.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, accidental gunshots nationwide claimed the lives of an average of 59 children annually over the ten years from 2006 to 2015. This is a tragic number, but so too is the much larger number of cases where people aren’t able to protect themselves and their families from criminals.
Even if locking up guns could have prevented all three of the mass shootings since 2000 that were committed by juveniles, that these killers couldn’t have obtained weapons in other ways, there would have been 24 fewer deaths and 16 fewer people who were wounded. One could even add in all of the accidental gun deaths and assume that those would have been prevented, too. But, even then, we are talking about just a fraction of those who die in one yearfrom the mandated safe storage of guns. . . .
The rest of the piece is available here.
The Hill newspaper ran an op-ed criticizing my piece. Here is a point-by-point response to some of the errors in the Devin Hughes, Beth Roth, and Jen Pauliukonis’ piece in The Hill. The responses are in bold italics.
Lott’s article is riddled with fabrications and falsehoods. For example, he opines that “every place in the world that has banned guns has seen an increase in murder.” Yet Japan is the developed nation that has come closest to completely banning firearms, and it has seen its homicide rate fallmore than 75 percent since it adopted its ban in 1958. While correlation is not causation, Lott’s correlative claim is unmistakably false. Further, a 2013 studyfound that among developed nations, more guns per capita was associated with significantly higher rates of firearm deaths.
Japanese gun control regulations had seen virtually no change for several hundred years.  It is wrong to think that the 1958 law changed anything relevant to this discussion.  For example, the Library of Congress has this summary.
The 1950 Order was replaced by the Law Controlling the Possession of Firearms and Swords in 1958.[18]  There were some changes made to the regulations in the 1950 Order, but the general prohibition of possession of guns by civilians was not changed. . . .
As to the claim that developed countries with more guns have higher rates of firearm deaths, this claim depends on biases in how gun ownership is measured or what countries that you define as developed.  The evidence shows that higher gun ownership is associated with fewer homicides or firearm homicides.   Also, purely cross-country comparisons are quite misleading. And contrary to the reference to Japan, every single time that all guns or all handguns have been banned, homicide rates have gone up.
Lott opines that “relatively few accidental gunshots take place in law-abiding, normal homes; most accidental gunshots resulting in the deaths of minors are fired by adult males in their mid-to-late 20s who have criminal histories.” This is an outright fabrication.
“Of the fifty-six accidental gun deaths involving children under ten in 1998 and the thirty-one in 1999, only eight and six respectively were shot by another child or themselves. The same statistic for 1997 was only five.” -- “The Bias Against Guns."
More detailed evidence on these points is also available there.
Lott’s outdated, solitary study claiming that CAP laws increase crime relies extensively on dubious econometric practices. More reliable research reveals that not only does firearm prevalence endanger children, but that strong CAP lawsalso help mitigate this risk and save lives. These laws help reduce both unintentional shootingsand youth firearm suicides.
Despite the criticism that Lott's research on whether gunlock laws increase crime, noneof these studies linked to here look at that relationship.   In addition, the papers that are cited are purely cross-sectional data (the Slate article cites this, and the "strong CAP Laws" study is here).
Other studies not referenced here either don't control for changes in other types of accidental deaths or factors such as pre-existing average differences across jurisdictions.
Finally, Dr. Lott's piece didn't just reference one "outdated solitary study."  He cited two and here is another later refereed publication here (pp. 198-201).
Although Lott correctly notes that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show an average of 59 children are unintentionally shot and killed each year, he fails to disclose that researchers have conclusively revealed that this number is a significant underestimate. The CDC readily admitsthat its estimate is low, so using this number can only be a tactic to minimize these deaths. A 2013 New York Times investigationfound that fewer than half of unintentional shootings of children were recorded as such (often being mislabeled as homicides).
Relying on initial news reports to identify cases is a very poor approach. Often the initial news reports are the only news articles made in these cases.  As Dr. Lott wrote to Michael Luo, the author of the 2013 New York Times report cited here, made many questionable judgment calls. For example, including cases such as a four-year-old supposedly loading a magazine and pulling back the slide before firing it, just shows that the journalists don't know very much about guns. Few children under ten or even twelve have the strength to pull back the slide on a semi-automatic handgun. Coroners also have access to information not publicly available.
the best available empirical data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive reveal there are fewer than 2,100 verified DGUs annually.
For problems with the Gun Violence Archive and their reliance on news coverage and other errors see hereand here.
The piece by Devin Hughes, Beth Roth, and Jen Pauliukonis is available here.



At National Review: Look at the Parkland Killer. We know one cause of mass public shootings, they want to get publicity

I have a new piece at National Review on why mass public shooters commit these horrible crimes.  The piece starts this way:
Ever wonder why mass public shooters commit their horrible crimes? Prosecutors in Broward County, Fla., released on Wednesday the Parkland high-school shooter’s cell-phone videos, in which he bragged, “It will be a big event, and when you see me on the news, you will all know who I am.”
What makes these mass public shooters different from most criminals is that they want glory and fame, and we need to stop giving it to them. The media coverage of these videos also fails to draw any lessons about how we can stop these attacks in the future.
If anyone missed the Parkland killer’s motivation, he repeated it three more times in his video rants, which totaled two minutes and 26 seconds. He tells viewers: “From the wrath of my power they will know who I am,” “with the power of my AR you will all know who I am,” and “you will all know what my name is.” To get this attention, the killer understood that he had to kill a lot of people: “My goal is [to kill] at least 20 people.”
The Parkland killer feels that he benefits from coverage of the attack even if it doesn’t mention his name. The more well-known the attack, the more people will ultimately learn who he is.
Sadly, the Parkland killer is all too typical. Killers like him want to commit suicide and want to do it in a way that will bring them notoriety. This isn’t a motivation just for lone-wolf shootings; we also see it in coordinated terrorist attacks.
The Sandy Hook killer spent two and a half years putting together a report on mass public shootings. Law enforcement described“a sickeningly thorough 7-foot-long, 4-foot-wide spreadsheet with names, body counts, and weapons from previous mass murders and even attempted killings.” One anonymous law-enforcement veteran remarked, “It sounded like a doctoral thesis, that was the quality of the research.” The killer also collected information on media coverage for each killing. He observed that attacks with more deaths received greater media coverage.
The Sandy Hook killer may have been mentally ill, but he clearly knew what he wanted to accomplish and how he was going to do it. CBS Evening News reported that he wanted to killmore people than did Anders Breivik, a Norwegian man who killed 77 people in July 2011. The Connecticut shooter targeted the “nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School because it was the ‘easiest target’ with the ‘largest cluster of people.’”
The Batman movie-theater shooter in Aurora, Colo., was also mentally ill. But William Reid, a state-appointed psychiatrist who performed Holmes’s sanity evaluation, testified that the subject carefully planned every detail to maximize the number of possible victims and get more attention.
Over and over again, these killers are highly driven to realize their goal of more publicity. They invest a lot of time and energy into planning their attacks, often starting a year or two in advance. Mass public shootings have rarely involved less than six months of planning.
It is clear: If you want to stop these attacks, stop giving news coverage to the killers and their crimes.
Unfortunately, you can’t stop this coverage without trampling on First Amendment rights. From time to time, various media outlets will briefly refrain from mentioning a killer’s name. But this is never done on a consistent, systematic basis. The killers know that their names will be in the history books, giving them a sort of immortality that they couldn’t achieve in any other way. . . .
The rest of the piece is available here.



At The Hill: Little evidence to support the efficacy of more gun control

I ave a new piece at The Hill on the push for more gun control laws.  The piece starts this way:
Gun control advocates seem willing to latch onto anything they can use to justify more stringent laws.They were at it again in the wake of the recent Santa Fe High School shooting. In the New York Times last Thursday, Nicholas Kristof pushedfor 10 supposedly “modest” gun control measures.
Everyone wants to do something to stop mass public shootings. And Kristof is right that fewer school doors aren’t the solution. Schools have as many entrances as they do for a reason (such as escaping fires). One door with a metal detector doesn’t mean much if the guard is the first person killed, and lining up a large number of students at one entrance creates an attractive target for killers to attack there.
But we also have to be careful that the gun control laws primarily disarm criminals, not law-abiding citizens. There has to be reasonable evidence that the regulations reduce crime. Let’s take a look at these proposals.
Universal background checks
Two points supposedly support background checks on private transfers of guns. A survey showing that 22 percentof U.S. guns obtained in the last two years were acquired without a background check. But this is mainly a result of inheritances (presumably, mainly within families) and, to a lesser extent, gifts. No evidence is provided that guns acquired through inheritance are commonly used in crime. The survey claims that 16 percent of people bought a gun at a store without undergoing a background check, but this is illegal everywhere in the U.S. It is not a credible claim.
Other surveys show 90 percent of people support these checks. But when these laws were put on the ballots in Nevada and Maine in 2016, they had a hard time breaking 50 percent, despite Michael Bloomberg massively outspending his opponents by 3-to-1 or 6-to-1 margins.
Closing the Charleston Loophole
The shooter who killed nine people at the Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015 was supposedly only able to buy a gun because his background check wasn’t completed within three days. But giving the government more time to complete the background check wouldn’t have made any difference. The killer had been charged recently with illegal drug possession, but never convicted. Being charged with a felony that could result in a prison term of at least two years makes a person ineligible to buy a gun. Yet, the killer was arrested for a misdemeanor drug possession, not a felony, so he faced a maximum prison time of six months.
One problem is incredibly high error ratein the background check system. The vast majority of the people that it stops are stopped mistakenly. Instead of stopping actual felons, it almost always stops people who have similar names to felons. And background checks aren’t cheap. Indeed, they prevent poor people from getting the guns that they need to defend themselves and their families.
Red flag laws
This law would allow people’s guns to be taken away without even the hearing before a judge, something that most states currently require. When people “really” pose a clear danger to themselves or others, they should be confined to a mental health facility. Denying them the right to legally buy a gun isn't a serious response. People can get guns in other ways, and just about as easily as they can buy illegal drugs. And if someone is really a danger, why only take away their guns? Why not also take away other items that can be used as weapons, such as their cars?
Taking guns out of the hands of accused domestic abusers
People convicted of either misdemeanor or felony domestic violence already lose the right to own a gun for the rest of their lives. Men can already do a lot of harm without a gun. Taking away men’s guns based on just an accusation creates a real incentive for misuse. The people who should have guns in these situations are Women, who tend to be weaker physically than men.
Safe storage gun laws
Kristof points to evidence that most people don’t lock up their guns. He believes that requiring individuals to lock up their guns will reduce accidental child gun deaths and teenage suicides. The CDC claimsthat from 2006 to 2015, an average of 59 children under the age of 15 died annually from accidental gunshots.
According to my research, published in the Journal of Law and Economics and elsewhere, accidental gun deaths and suicides among these young people didn’t change.
Gunlock laws in certain states have made it more difficult for people to successfully defend their families. Such laws emboldened criminals to attack more people in their homes; there were 300 more total murders and 4,000 more rapes occurring each year in the states with these laws. Burglaries also rose dramatically.
Make serial numbers harder to file off . . .
The rest of the piece is available here.