2014.06.06 DGU Disinformation
Lies, damn lies and statistics
There is a popular meme that 18.25 (Cops) versus 2.2 (Civilians) graphic, based on a Davi Barker @ Daily Anarchist article
The truth is that it's not a great study, he admits he looked at only the last 10 examples -- but mass shootings are rare so there aren't that many examples to draw from. Worse, when challenged, the author didn't remember exactly where he got his data, and trying to re-do it, creates some different values. But David admitted it was sloppy, did a mea culpa, and he re-did the math, better this time, in which he shows his work, and it comes down to 14.29 vs. 2.33 looking at 100 cases. So he did the right thing and more journalism that CNN on the topic.
I'm still not impressed with his work. FBI study shows the average shooting is more like 5 people, so his 14.29 average seems like he's cherry picking the biggest events (or throwing in global ones like Beslan Russia), which mucks up the average in the U.S. But it kind of doesn't matter the exact numbers. In virtually all cases where you could compare the two, armed civilians do save lives. The guns are on the scene faster, and thus they distract and slow down the shooter (even if they don't stop them). So while the numbers are in debate, the point isn't. Civilians with guns save lives in mass shooting events -- just not by as much as the original article/study claimed.
I reposted the meme/study for popularity and reference, NOT for accuracy. So even if the numbers are questionable, the point is valid.
The problems are that there's not enough data to get good samples, so we have issues like:
- where do you draw the cut-off? 1is not a mass shooting -- but 2, 3, 5?
- worse than that, just because they didn't hit more than 1, doesn't mean they didn't try. A person who is shooting at many people but is stopped by a civilian, is preventing an attempted mass shooting.
- There are also cases where the shooter was an off-duty cop (or ex/retired cop, or ex/retired military, etc) -- technically they were acting as a civilian, but some think that's law enforcement, others point out they aren't (and are generally under civilian CCW laws at the time). Also what if they're secrataries or administrators at police stations?
- I trained cops in Martial Arts, does that make me part of law enforcement?
It gets murky.
Politifact is an embarrassment on this topic.
As much as I don't like Davi Barker's data, PolitFact could have stopped with, "the data is complex", and called it partly true (or even mostly false), and I'd have been fine with it. The numbers are wrong but the point is right.
But they went on to hand waive, do liberal propaganda, and make all the same mistakes they criticized Davi Barker on:
- they quote from their own "expert", who made up data worse that Davi Barker did.
- They criticized Barker for not showing his work better in the original, then they repeat the same flaw in their own.
- They criticized Barker's sampling of 10, and yet their expert could only find 3 cases of DGU's stopping a mass shooting? I show a few dozen in my Mass shootings stopped by armed civilians article, without even trying.
So Politifacts refutation numbers are even more bullshitty than Davi Barkers original ones, and they pretend to be an authority in correcting him? Bad journalism.
Most of all, they miss the material point: we know the money shot of the meme is true: armed civilians save lives. Period. Even if the numbers above (and ratio) are still bullshit, they're actually less bullshitty than the numbers or logic gymnastics that the media and Politifact used. And the only thing in dispute is the degree of truth (the ratio), not that it isn't true.