Only John Lott could kill a much-repeated “fact” so cleanly.
In 2018 it was widely reported that Americans own 46% of the worlds civilian-owned firearms. This statistic came from the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva, Switzerland, based organization that calls itself “a global centre of excellence” that “generates evidence-based, impartial, and policy-relevant knowledge and analysis on small arms….” It says this just before stating: “Our main objective is to reduce the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons and their impacts.” This, of course, isn’t really a declaration of impartiality, but is rather an announcement that they are an organization with a gun-control agenda.
Lott shot holes in this “fact” at a “research breakfast” this week held by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) at the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) in Las Vegas.
“The Small Arms Survey is bunk,” said Lott, who is president and founder of the Crime Research Prevention Center. “I spent three years asking the Small Arms Survey for its research data. They never gave me the data they say they used to make the claim that Americans own more guns, per capita, than any other nation.”
Lott explained that the Small Arms Survey looks at the number of guns privately owned per capita. The trouble with this is that in many parts of the world governments technically own guns even though they are in the possession of private individuals.
“In 2007, a large percentage of the Swiss male population had military-issued weapons in their homes, but those weren’t counted in this total,” said Lott. “Also, while most people have guns in Israel, the guns are technically owned by the government. People can be in possession of a gun for 50 years in Israel. If you look at the gun possession rate rather than the private gun ownership rate, both Israel and Switzerland clearly have higher gun possession rates in 2007 than the U.S.”
Lott doesn’t have the resources to do a worldwide study on civilian gun ownership, so he doesn’t have a competing statistic. It also might seem like only a fine point that Americans actually might not have the most civilian guns per capita. It is, however, telling that the Small Arms Survey chose to present its statistics in a way that makes the U.S. seem like an outlier, as many mainstream-media outlets used this and other statistics to claim that Americans’ guns make the U.S. more dangerous than any other developed nations.
Lott, for example, next tackled the claim that more mass-murder events (attacks in which four or more people are killed) have occurred in the U.S. than in other developed nations. He also pointed out that the researcher behind that statistic, Adam Lankford, has repeatedly declined to even share the research data he claims to have gathered from 171 nations—places that speak many different languages and that likely only report murders in regional newspapers.
Specifically, Lankford claimed that the U.S. had 31% of public mass murderers despite the fact that the U.S. has less than 5% of the world’s population. Lankford’s study also reported that, between 1966 and 2012, some 90 mass murderers struck in the U.S., while just 202 mass-murder attacks occurred across the rest of world.
Lott did his own study and found that Lankford massively undercounted mass-murder events in other nations. Lott found 1,448 such attacks outside the U.S. during just the last 15 years of the period Lankford said he studied.
“Regardless, many in the mainstream media didn’t question Lankford’s data, as it fit into their narrative that Americans’ guns are a problem,” said Lott.
Lott said this after Mark Duda, with Responsive Management, and Rob Southwick, with Southwick Associates, presented survey numbers and more on the gun industry, and after the NSSF’s Jim Curcuruto talked about the new NSSF program “Gun Owners Care”, an initiative designed to help gun owners to effectively respond to those who are opposed to our Second Amendment freedoms.
The overall point made by these three researchers is that “words matter” and the gun-control movement is aggressively trying to control the language used, as, by controlling the language, they can control the conversation. The political term “assault weapon” was an early use of this tactic; more recently, the gun-control movement has supplanted the term “gun control” with “gun safety.”
Lott added that, yes, we must push back against their appropriation of the language, but just as importantly, we must expose the dishonest data they are pushing on the American public.
Meanwhile, as is the case every year, much of the conversation at the SHOT Show is not about gun rights—though the battles over our rights is a topic here. Rather, the conversations at SHOT are mostly about all the new firearms and associated products being introduced. To see these, logon to ShootingIllustrated.org and AmericanRifleman.org.