John R. Lott Jr., the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), revealed in a report published on Wednesday by RealClearInvestigations that the FBI grossly underestimates (i.e., by an order of more than three) the number of times an armed citizen has thwarted an active shooter event. He suggested that the narrative constructed by the FBI and developed further by the media on the basis of the allegedly skewed data interpretation may be misused for political purposes.
Whereas the FBI reported that 4.4% of active shooter incidents between 2014 and 2021 were precluded or ended by armed citizens, the CPRC has found that the number is actually 14.6%. Lott admits that even this figure may be an underestimate.
Lott attributes the discrepancy to misclassified shootings and to overlooked incidents, both of which have much to do with how an "active shooter event" has been defined.
The FBI defines an active shooter as "an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area." An "active shooter incident" reportedly does not account for incidents the Bureau "deems related to other criminal activity, such as a robbery or fighting over drug turf."
Not only does the Bureau's selective definition allegedly mean that the number of active shooter incidents reported between 2014 and 2021 is smaller (252 as opposed to 281), but also that the number of incidents stopped by an armed citizen is smaller (11 as opposed to 41).
One instance cited in Lott's report is the case of 28-year-old Mercedes Perez, who crashed into a parked vehicle on August 11, 2021, and then started firing on the group of people who came over to help. A nearby resident ended her shooting spree.
Woman shot and killed after crashing car; shoots at people trying to check on her, police say YouTube - KENS-5
In another instance cited by the CPRC but ignored by the FBI, a Syracuse property manager "saved the lives of several individuals" on August 31, 2021, by shooting Demetris Jackson after Jackson opened fire on a group of people.
It is not just misclassification and inattention that may have resulted in the underestimation of armed citizen responses. The FBI depends upon reports from Texas State University's Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, reports which allegedly fail to pick up on incidents that do not receive news coverage of the kind that would usually trigger consideration.
"Although collecting such data is fraught with challenges," wrote Lott, "some see a pattern of distortion in the FBI numbers because the numbers almost exclusively go one way, minimizing the life-saving actions of armed citizens."
While the FBI might include the heroic efforts of armed citizens like Elisjsha Dicken — who stopped a mass shooter at an Indiana mall on July 17 — in this year's tally, the Bureau's alleged refusal to acknowledge other incidents may inadvertently dissuade more Americans from carrying or being prepared.
Lott intimated that this dissuasion, if not intended by the FBI, is nevertheless advanced by the media. He highlighted Indiana University Bloomington law professor Jody Madeira's comments in the Washington Post, printed after Dicken ended Jonathan Sapirman's rampage. Madeira suggested that an armed and prepared citizenry would be "particularly dangerous ... You'll get this idea that these people [e.g., Dicken] are needed out there to help protect citizens, when in reality that's the job of the police."