Saturday, January 2, 2016

Washington Post Fact Checker: Bill Clinton Goes “Over the Top” on Mass Shootings


AIM as suggested by TS

The Washington PostFact Checker gave former president Bill Clinton three Pinocchio’s for a statement he made last week on assault weapons and mass killings in the U.S.

Half of all mass killings in the United States have occurred since the assault weapons ban expired in 2005, half of all of them in the history of the country.

That’s a pretty bold statement, but not surprising coming from Clinton, who signed an assault weapons ban into law in 1994, which wasn’t renewed when it expired in 2004. His statement comes at a time when emotions and rhetoric on guns are running high after the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, last month.

Using data assembled from Grant Duwe, director of research and evaluation at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, the Fact Checker found that Clinton’s claim was exaggerated by a fairly wide margin.

Using Duwe’s definition of a mass public shooting as an incident in which four or more victims are killed publicly with guns within 24 hours — in the workplace, schools, restaurants and other public places — excluding shootings in connection with crimes such as robbery, drugs or gangs, there have been 156 incidents in the U.S. in the past 100 years.

Of that number there have been 32 mass shootings since the assault weapons ban expired, which computes to just a little over 20 percent, not the 50 percent that Clinton cited.

First of all, who the hell is Grant Duwe?  Secondly, I thought we should go back, say, 20 years, not 100.

Also, don't we count "mass shootings" to be those in which 4 people are shot? Isn't there a difference between "mass shootings" and "mass killings?"


  1. MikeB: "I thought we should go back, say, 20 years, not 100."

    Blame Bill. He's the one who set the parameter as "in the history of the country". That makes what he said a lie.

    And you wouldn't like it of they measured it by "shot" instead of "killed". That figure picks up mostly gang shootings, and those have gone down quite a lot since the mid nineties.

  2. "Also, don't we count "mass shootings" to be those in which 4 people are shot?"

    The definition of a mass shooting has been changing. Not too long ago, we discussed an article in Mother Jones about mass shootings which used the FBI definition of a mass murderer as one who kills four or more.
    The four or more people shot came into vogue through a mass shooting tracker Reddit page. And truth be told, in a way I sort of agree with the logic. However, taking on the new definition, while allowing more shock value by being able to say there was a mass shooting every day, also throws out all of the old assertions of increased frequency of shootings.
    So now, everyone has to go back and try to recreate their study with the new definition and hope it comes out the same. But I wouldn't hold my breath on that.
    If you take a look at the Reddit Mass Shooting page,

    You'll see that most entries seem to list the name of the shooter as "unknown", which for the most part means its a gang shooting.

    "First of all, who the hell is Grant Duwe?"

    Dr. Duwe seems to come up from my neck of the woods,

    "Dr. Grant Duwe is the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Minnesota Department of Corrections "

    And he seems to have done some interesting work on mass shootings using the FBI definition instead of the Reddit one,

    "The first problem with the Mother Jones list, which contains 67 cases, is that it significantly underreports the incidents occurring between 1982 and 2013 that meet its definitional requirements. The data I've collected show there were 114 mass public shootings, which means the Mother Jones list missed more than 40 percent of the cases that took place in the U.S. during this 32-year period."

    "The second problem is that the underreporting in the Mother Jones list grows more severe the further back in time we go. When looking at the data by decade, we see that the Mother Jones list captured 89 percent of the 18 cases from 2010-2013, 69 percent of the 29 cases from 2000-2009, 55 percent of the 42 cases from 1990-1999, and just 32 percent of the 25 cases from 1982-1989. As I show below, the combination of these two problems has made it possible for those relying on this list to conclude that mass shootings are growing more and more frequent over time."

    The good Dr. even makes a comment regarding the data that I've heard from you. I seem to recall you saying that gun control advocates like to pick a certain year to make the long term drop in crime more dramatic. Well, Dr. Duwe says this,

    The claims about the recent increase in mass public shootings are valid as long as we restrict our focus to the 1996-2013 period. As rates of crime and violence began to fall in the latter half of the '90s, so, too, did those for mass public shootings. Compared to the 1996-2006 period, there has been an uptick since 2007."

    An interesting read.