What’s in a Name?

Legal Insurrection, Andrew Branca has taken to task researchers who conducted a study in Florida, regarding the state’s Stand Your Ground Law.  I have thrown in a couple of definitions dealing with “active shooters,” and “mass murders.”  These are FBI definitions and define the criteria they use for keeping statistics.  So two different bodies of research, with specific criteria and nobody can come up with statistics that agree.

Branca investigated the methodology used by the researchers to analyze the data used to obtain their results.  The researchers claimed that they were investigating “Stand Your Ground (SYG)” shootings and that they used data obtained by a Tampa newspaper. When challenged by Branca, the researchers were unable to supply the definition of a SYG shooting.   Skewed Study and Definition of Stand Your Ground.  

It stands to reason if the data you are analyzing is corrupt, the results are meaningless.  How could the data be corrupt? SYG is a legal concept and defense to prosecution.  If any of the shooters identified in the study were subsequently convicted, then SYG clearly did not apply.  Florida has the “Castle Doctrine” this means that if any of the shooters in the study shot intruders in their home then the Castle Doctrine applied, and SYG does not apply. If the shooter was in a position where retreat was impossible, then SYG does not apply. By the time Branca was done the data set that researchers relied upon was reduced from over two hundred shootings to less than fifty.  

For a similar game, the NRA has included in their magazine for as long as I can remember (35 years) a page called the “Armed Citizen”.  It provides anecdotal stories of people who used firearms to defend themselves  or others.  Many of the incidents are resolved with nobody being injured and the suspect fleeing. The tendency in the anti-gun crowd is to dismiss those incidents where no shots are fired or suspects hit.  Guess the bad guys decided in mid burglary that they were late for Sunday school and left.

Active shooter The agreed-upon definition of an active shooter by U.S. government agencies—including the White House, U.S. Department of Justice/FBI, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency—is “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.”3 Implicit in this definition is that the subject’s criminal actions involve the use of firearms.4 For purposes of its study, the FBI extended this definition to include individuals, because some incidents involved two or more shooters. Though the federal definition includes the word “confined,” the FBI excluded this word in its study, as the term confined could omit incidents that occurred outside a building. Whether inside or out, these incidents still posed a threat to both law enforcement and the citizens they seek to protect.5 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. In addition, other gun-related shootings were not included when those incidents appeared generally not to have put others in peril (e.g., the accidental discharge of a firearm in a school building or a person who chose to publicly commit suicide in a parking lot). The study does not encompass all mass killings or shootings in public places and therefore is limited in its scope.6 Nonetheless, it was undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to both law enforcement and citizens as they seek to stop these threats and save lives during active shooter incidents.

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.” (FBI definition of mass killing)

So what is the game?  Stand Your Ground, Active Shooter, Mass Killing, Global Warming, pick a term, each have a specific meaning.  Research whores, reporters, activists of all hues come along and change the definition and by extension the numbers.  One anti-gun group says the FBI has under reported the incidence of “active shooters” and supplies a much higher number.  The FBI didn’t under report anything, they defined their criteria and reported their findings.

This interest group uses the same terms as the FBI but different criteria to obtain their results.  You know kinda like Caitlyn Jenner may have balls but she is still a female.  If this group had any interest in honesty then it needs to be up front and state that the criteria has been changed and what they are reporting is not active shooters, as defined by the FBI, but a chimera of their own choosing. If they do that then the group loses the mantle of respectability that a reader is liable to impart to government supplied figures.  Given a heads up, a skilled reader like Andrew Branca would take a look at the methodology and catch them at their own game.

Everybody beyond the third grade has learned not to fall into the old “it’s common sense” trap.  “Common sense implies some universal truth or common ground from which to begin.  Sounds good until you remember that much of the statistical analysis is being supplied by the crowd that thought defining “Is” and a “blow job” is not sex was reasonable.