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When the media makes Trump a target

March 19, 2019, at The Washington Times

By John R. Lott, Jr.


The national Sunday morning talk shows blamed President Trump for the New Zealand massacre that left 50 dead. CNN’s Jake Tapper warned: “I don’t think moderate Republicans are doing enough to hold President Trump accountable for his rhetoric.” NBC’s Chuck Todd noted supposed parallels to the killer’s rhetoric, and asked: “When the president uses the term ‘invaders,’ does that dehumanize to the point where it can get misused?”

The media made Mr. Trump its singular target, but not even Democrats were completely spared from the frenzy of critical reactions. In a viral video, an angry NYU student confronted Chelsea Clinton and blamed her “rhetoric” for the New Zealand massacre. What was Ms. Clinton’s offense? She criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, for making anti-Semitic remarks.

Blaming Mr. Trump or even Chelsea Clinton is nonsensical. The media acts like mass public shootings in other countries are something new, but they are actually much more common outside of the United States. And, well before Mr. Trump became president, foreign shooting, bombing and vehicle attacks were increasing in frequency at a much faster rate.

Research by the Crime Prevention Research Center, over which I preside, shows that there were 2,354 attacks and at least 4,880 shooters outside of the United States from 1998 through 2015. This excludes incidents that occurred in the course of guerrilla or civil wars. In contrast, our country had 53 attacks and 57 shooters. By our count, the United States accounts for 1.49 percent of mass public shooting murders, 2.20 percent of attacks, and less than 1.15 percent of shooters. All of these figures are much smaller than the United States’ 4.6 percent share of the world population.

Of the 97 countries in which we have identified mass public shootings, the United States ranks 64th per capita in frequency of attacks and 65th in fatalities. Major European countries such as Norway, Finland, France, Switzerland and Russia all have at least 25 percent higher per capita rates of mass public shooting murders.

Although Americans are concerned by the increased frequency and severity of mass public shootings at home, the rest of the world is experiencing much larger increases. Including all of the attacks in the United States up until the end of last year, the per capita frequency of foreign mass public shootings since 1998 has grown 291 percent faster than in the United States. The growth rate of mass public shooting murders was well more than twice as fast.

Bombings across the world that soared by five-fold from 2007 to 2015 have also dropped by 40 percent over the next two years. It is hardly a pattern that fits the media narrative for responsibility. Worldwide mass killings from vehicle attacks began increasing in 2016 before Mr. Trumpbecame president.

The media also conveniently ignores the killer’s manifesto with his stated objective. When he asks himself if “won’t your attack result in calls for the removal of gun rights” for New Zealanders and Americans, he responded: “Yes, that is the plan all along” And within a day, politicians in both countries were doing what the killer wanted. The New Zealand government has already promised to enact a complete ban on semi-automatic guns.

This isn’t even the first time that mass public shooters have supported gun control. The Columbine school killers were also gun control advocates.

The media consistently fails to note that these attacks keep occurring where people aren’t allowed to defend themselves. No one talks about how lives may have been saved in the New Zealand massacre or the previous day’s school shooting in Suzano, Brazil, if people had been able to protect themselves.

Gun control has not been the answer. Brazil has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, with less than one percent of adults possessing a license to own a gun (most are police officers). In New Zealand, just 250,000 (6.56 percent) out of 3.81 million adults have such licenses.

It is simply a mistake for the media to see a significant share of these attacks as having been egged on by political rhetoric. Doing so only serves to divide people even further.

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