The president loves an extreme statistic, but in this case, as so in many others, the should dual check his numbers. (The Washington Post)
“98 percent of mass public shootings have actually occurred in areas where weapons are banned, just so you understand.” — president Trump, speaking to the nationwide Rifle Association, might 4

President trump card is prone to using bombastic statistics without much regard because that the source, specifically when they assistance his opinions. As soon as he declared while speak to the nationwide Rifle Association the “98 percent of all mass public shootings” had emerged in gun-free zones, it caught our ear — ~ all, 98 percent is one awfully huge share of anything.

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Before we dive in, there space two important caveats: yes no agreed-upon meaning of “mass shooting,” and “gun-free zone” is subject to interpretation. Together we’ve reported, in the 1980s, the FBI developed a an interpretation for “mass murder” as “four or much more victims slain, in one event, in one location.” Shooters are not contained in the victim count if they committed self-destruction or were eliminated in a justifiable homicide, follow to a conference Research organization report. But “mass murder” is not the very same as “mass shooting.”

The absence of consistency of interpretations has led researchers to draw wildly different conclusions and also has added ambiguity come something that, on confront value, need to be an easy enough to determine. As with all statistics, it counts on how you count. Let’s dig in.

Founded by economist man R. Lott, CPRC is cited frequently by gun-rights advocates. Lott discovered that 98.4 percent of massive shootings arisen in gun-free zones between 1950 and also July 10, 2016. Some quick Googling turned up another study — native the gun-control advocacy group Everytown because that Gun security — that uncovered that 10 percent of fixed shootings in between 2009 and also 2016 took location in gun-free zones.

Using data the Lott provided, we tightened the time structure so we might compare his research with the Everytown study. Under Lott’s methodology, we uncovered that around 86 percent of massive public shootings took ar in gun-free area from 2009 come 2016.

Eight-six percent and 10 percent are about as far apart as statistics get. So who right? The answer hinges on dueling definitions. Because that the services of one apples-to-apples comparison, let’s break under how Lott and also Everytown calculated the percent of mass shootings in gun-free zones in between 2009 and also 2016.

Everytown determined 156 fixed shootings between 2009 come 2016. Lott discovered 28 mass public shootings over the exact same period. Both Lott and Everytown define a mass shoot as any incident in i beg your pardon “four or more” human being are killed in one location, not including the shooter.

Here’s where the two start to differ. Lott tightens his definition, not included shootings the resulted from gang or drug violence or during the board of directors of a crime. Everytown has these incidents. Lott justifies this by citing a 2014 FBI study on active-shooter incidents. (Caveat: An active shooter might be however is not necessarily the same as a fixed shooter. The FBI go not require fatalities when it evaluated “active shooter” situations, and also the report underlines this difference, noting, “This is no a examine of fixed killings or fixed shootings, however rather a study of a specific type of shooting instance law enforcement and also the public may face.”)

Another major difference between Lott and Everytown is in wherein they controversy a fixed shooting have the right to occur. Lott is an extremely clear that he looks just at “mass windy shootings.” referring to the same FBI study, the writes, “The FBI also defines ‘public’ places as ‘includ commercial areas (divided into malls, businesses open to pedestrian traffic, and businesses closed come pedestrian traffic), educational settings (divided right into schools and IHEs), open up spaces, federal government properties (divided right into military and also other federal government properties), residences of worship, and also health treatment facilities.’ ”

Lott go not cite that the list, defined as locations “where the general public was most at risk throughout an incident,” likewise included “residences,” i beg your pardon accounted for 4.4 percent of together incidents. He described these to exclude, in a Fox News op-ed, arguing that “mass publicly shootings room uniquely motivated,” unequal a shooting the is the an outcome of a corridor fight or a medicine sale. He added that “shootings in exclusive residences room distinctly different, due to the fact that they regularly involve killers who understand the homeowners and whether they very own guns.”

Louis Klarevas, a college of Massachusetts professor and also the writer of “Rampage Nation: Securing America from Mass Shootings,” dismissed Lott’s reasoning, noting that plenty of massive shootings emerged in residential settings and also querying why those victims must be overlooked. Everytown’s manager of research and implementation, sarah Tofte, went further. “The case that so-called ‘gun-free zones’ entice mass shooters doesn’t stand as much as scrutiny,” she told united state via email. “It’s simply not what the number show. We look very closely at the data on fixed shootings, and also it mirrors that relatively couple of take ar in locations where civilians are prohibited from delivering firearms. In fact, the vast majority of fixed shootings take ar in private homes and also are frequently tied to residential violence.” The organization’s data found that events that took location in private homes accounted because that 63 percent the the total number of mass shootings castle examined in between 2009 and also 2016.

It’s not just the discrepancies between how Lott and also Everytown specify “mass shooting” that add to their differing estimates — there is additionally disagreement around how to define “gun-free zone.”

Everytown reported 16 massive shootings in gun-free zones in between 2009 and also 2016; Lott report 24. This is clearly attributed to the difference in definitions. Everytown defines gun-free zones as “areas where civilians are prohibited from delivering firearms and also there is not a regular armed law enforcement presence.”

Here, Lott has a much wider definition. In one email, he created that gun-free zones room “places where only police or armed forces policy are classified, places where the is illegal to carry a permitted hidden handgun, places that are posted as not permitting a permitted concealed handgun, places where ‘general citizens’ space not allowed to achieve permits or wherein permits are either not issued to any kind of general citizens or to only a an extremely tiny selective segment.”

In layman’s terms, Lott’s an interpretation is so broad that the White House, wherein there room snipers ~ above the roof, would be considered a gun-free zone. His data collection classifies the shootings the took location at ft Hood and the Washington marine Yard together having occurred in gun-free zones. Klarevas disputed Lott’s characterization — wondering just how “a place deserve to be a gun free zone if firearms are present?”

Lott previously defended his assessment. “Regular military members space banned indigenous carrying guns at military bases in the joined States, make the bases surprisingly soft targets,” the wrote. “The only human being who can lug guns on residential bases are military police, therefore the case is lot the exact same as at the Pulse nightclub.”

A White residence official stand by Lott’s study, saying the president had actually cited a widely supplied statistic.

Lott’s initial data set — i beg your pardon Trump referenced — spans native 1950 to 2016, but the admittedly vague concept of “gun-free zones” gone into the lexicon only in the at an early stage 1990s, as soon as two federal legislations that restrict firearms in and also around colleges were passed. Prior to 1990, Klarevas said, only specific government infrastructure (post offices, for example) explicitly prohibited firearms.

So where did the former 40 year of data come from? Lott provided a wide definition of “gun-free zone” come compile this data. He stated he contained anyplace wherein a “general citizen” no able to carry a concealed weapon. This included any state that didn’t have either a right-to-carry or concealed-carry law.

No matter how we spin this numbers, one thing is clean – they deserve to be spun. And they have been. There is no a frequently accepted and uniform an interpretation of “mass shooting” or covenant on what constitutes a “gun-free zone,” it’s complicated to work out this debate. Proponents on both sides can suggest to holes and debatable logic in the thinking of the study from the other sides.

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But Lott’s study is really not our focal point today. It’s the president. Together always, the burden for proving the accuracy of a insurance claim is top top the speaker. When the gap between dueling research studies is therefore large, largely since the count depends on definitions, politicians have to be especially careful about citing one. Trump card lunged because that a dramatic statistic without including important context. That earns two Pinocchios.