Monday, September 29, 2014

Calling Shenanigans on the FBI's Active Shooter Report

I read the news every morning, its somewhat of a ritual though I wouldnt say I have a pattern. MSNBC, CNN, Breitbart, The Blaze, Infowars (to see how the tinfoil is fitting that day), local news and Reuters are all part of my morning stops (as well as  This morning I came across an article on the FBI's latest Active Shooter study so I figured it was time to read it.

Jesus Christ.

I have been hearing about the FBI's new Active Shooter study, I know it was emailed to me a few times but until this morning I had not bothered to read the entire thing.  Well I read it, and my general reaction is wondering if somehow I came to work drunk and forgot that I drank when I woke up.  I put some thought into this and decided no, I am sober so it must be something else.

Awesome work, guys.

Its the report, or I should say the problems with the report.  Anyone who has bothered to think about it knows that you can make statistics say anything you want as long as you are in control of the formula.  The government has been in charge of the crime statistics formula since the FBI began collecting data decades ago with the Uniform Crime Report.  The UCR is very useful, though is usefulness is directly related to what you want to use it for.  The FBI doesn't generate the data, rather it relies on state and local government to report the data to them.  Our first problem is that definitions may vary.  What is seen at the state level as one thing may be viewed at the Federal level as something else, and the Active Shooter report certainly gives us a great example of that.  The Federal Governments definition requires that there be three or more fatalities for an event to classify as an "Active Shooting" or "Mass Killing" according to the law (Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012)  Okay, so right off the bat our first problem is that "mass killing" or "active shooting" is a definition, not a crime.  Its murder, and the title is given to it by the circumstances and facts of the event.  Requiring three murders to occur under specific circumstances “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” leaves us a great ability for the skewing of data.  The FBIs own report admits,

"Though additional active shooter incidents may have occurred during this time period, the FBI is confident this research captured the vast majority of incidents falling within the search criteria."  
.....go on

The FBI further poisons the sample data waters by stating;

"Incidents identified in this study do not encompass all gun-related situations; therefore caution should be taken when using this information without placing it in context. Specifically, shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence—pervasive, long-tracked, criminal acts that could also affect the public—were not included in this study."
What the hell are you doing?

So we need three murders, but only if they occur outside of criminal enterprises, well that sort of makes sense if you hold your mouth right and read through squnited eyes but okay, it cant get any worse, right?

"The study does not encompass all mass killings or shootings in public places and therefore is limited in its scope."

Okay...So I need three murders, and it has to happen on the right kind of real estate and cant be in any way criminally related and we aren't worried about attempted anything...Which is kind of like the FBI telling me losing my virginity didn't count because it didn't include three or more women even though that was most certainly my plan. Oh, and even if I meet the "requirements" the crime may still not be included by their own admission because, you know maybe someone else will cover it (maybe).

"Other private and public entities have studied mass casualty incidents, murder rates, and school or workplace violence. (e.g., Campus Attacks:Targeted Violence Affecting Institutions of Higher Education, a joint publication of U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Education, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010"

I have a lot of respect for the FBI's investigative power when there is nothing political at stake.  This report has been beat so hard by politics that it flinches at sunlight.  Seriously, this report lays out 160 events between 2000 and 2013 and then goes right ahead and tells you that

"The FBI found that 64 incidents (40.0%) would have been categorized as falling within the new federal definition of “mass killing,” which is defined as “three or more killings in a single incident."

So screw the other 60% of events then, I guess?  This is arbitrary and forced anecdotal statistics at its best.  Lets not even make an attempt to include attempted active shooter events where the shooter was stopped by someone (predominately a CCW holder) before they could carry out their plan.  Lets not include a drive by of a night club or a parking lot shooting because it may be "gang related."  I have read some carefully crafted statistics in my life time but this report is like a schizophrenic juggler who is also a part time impressionist house painter in a job interview with the king of France who is also a Ronald McDonald statue on a bench in Jersey City. It makes that much sense.

If you are going to do a study on active shooter events for public consumption, perhaps do the damn thing right?  There is nothing the FBI did here that could not have been done by a private party, in fact a private party may have done a better job.  The report shows (with graphs of course, because words are hard for journalists these days) a remarkable increase in active shootings from 2000 to 2013 even though this "increase" includes the shootings the FBI stated in the report that they shouldn't have included but did anyway because fuck logic.

Pictured: A Better author and researcher
The New York Times ran with it and used this report as further evidence that the sky is falling and guns are evil, obviously not actually reading the report (it looks like all information quoted was pulled directly from the graphs and only basic reading comprehension was exercised).  Way to go J school, this new generation or reporters is so much better than the last....Oh, and violent crime is down.  Way down and shows no signs of doing anything else but going down.  But hey, assault rifles.

My problem is that the low information crowd relies on the media to make their decisions for them, or at the very least give them the information they need to flip a coin (because everything is a two choice decision, right?).  The media takes this trust and exploits it like a corner pimp shelling out cocaine bumps to working girls.  The system is obviously broken, this particular situation is a good example of that but who is going to notice?

Anyone paying attention

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