Guns

Race and Mass Shootings

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I often urge my students to always read, quote, and cite original sources, rather than relying even on seemingly trustworthy intermediate sources (such as law review articles or court opinions). Not everyone has the luxury of time needed to do that, I realize. But if you can do it, you should.

I was reminded of this when I saw this passage from one of the top law journals in the country (emphasis added):

2. Disparate Rates of Crime Commission?

The second possible explanation for racial disparity in past-arrest rates is a difference in the underlying incidence of crime. This possibility arises because crime is the product of complex social and economic determinants that, in a race-and class-stratified society, may also correlate with demographic traits. Where that is so, the incidence of a given type of crime may vary among demographic groups. A number of recent studies have found, for instance, that contemporary white and Hispanic college students use illicit drugs at significantly higher rates than African American and Asian students. White men have committed the vast majority of mass shootings in the United States during the last thirty years. [Footnote: Number of Mass Shootings in the United States between 1982 and November 2018, by Shooter's Race and Ethnicity, STATISTA, https://www.statista.com/statistics/476456/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-race [https://perma.cc/238C-PVZR].]

But when one goes to the source, one sees that it reports 107 mass shootings, for 103 of which the shooter's race was indicated. But of those 103, 60 were white: 58%, hardly a "vast majority." And if there is a "disparate rate[] of crime commission" here, it shows that non-Hispanic white shooters were underrepresented, though not by much: Non-Hispanic whites were roughly 70% of the population at large at the midpoint of the date range (2000). (Men, of course, were vastly overrepresented, as they are for basically all violent crimes, but white men were not, compared to men of other groups.) See this post for more.

I'm pretty sure this was an honest mistake, both by the author and the cite-checkers. Perhaps it might have been influenced in some measure by ideological blind-spots, of the sort to which all of us are vulnerable; but such mistakes happen to everyone (doubtless including me, in some of my articles).

That, though, is the point: Even seemingly credible sources, such as a serious scholar in a serious academic journal, make errors. If you're writing on the subject and relying on the source, don't let their errors become your errors: Read, quote, and check the original source, going as far back in the chain of citations as is feasible.

NEXT: Dr. Luke Isn’t a Public Figure for Purposes of His Libel Lawsuit Against Ke$ha

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  1. All research must publish the raw data to the internet.
    It is possible that all research outside of engineering or physics needs to be redone, with fundamental errors in math, and misapplications of statistics.

    1. Academics are government dependent Democrats. They need to show all their work, and their data. Democrats are rent seeking, lying, America haters. Dismissed. Garbage.

      1. David,
        You should learn about the Open Data mandate promulgated by the Science and Technology Policy Office headed by the President’s Science Adviser.

        1. Don. Thank you. That is a good idea. It should be required for any government support.

    2. There was a finding a while back that over half of the psychological research studies published (peer reviewed) could not be duplicated.

      Just sayin…

      1. It’s like a Jenga stack of nuts.

          1. Someone doesn’t understand what he’s talking about. Rhymes with Wife of Ryan.

            1. And you probably believe in cold fusion as well.

              That one fell apart for the same reason…

            2. You’ve never heard of the replication crisis in psychology?

              1. Of course I have. But 1. I don’t think it means what many think it does and 2. more importantly, my comment was in reference to Behar’s and Ed’s nutty misunderstandings of what the heck is going on here.

                You see, that’s why ‘Jenga stack’ (in reference to the thread stack they had created).

                1. But 1. I don’t think it means what many think it does

                  Yes, It’s painfully obvious by now that you march to your own special little drummer.

                  1. Brian is the kind of guy that when a study finds salt is not bad for you and then a later one finds that that was incorrect then all science is a conspiracy run by the lizard people.

                    1. Nice straw man of the hour, Queenie. Reality is that few people would give a shit about brand-new studies eventually being shown to be incorrect if they weren’t used in the meantime to browbeat us into living our lives according to their hasty, and in some cases deliberately distorted, conclusions.

                2. You are in denial about the chromosomal genotype in every cell of your body. Have a blessed day, Hon.

  2. It seems that when people see whites are overrepresented as mass shooters, they mean relative to ordinary shootings.

    1. In ordinary shootings blacks are far more over represented that white.

      1. Correct. And they’re overrepresented as mass shooters too, just not quite as drastically.

  3. I’m sorry but there aren’t serious scholars in the purportedly serious academic journals anymore.

    AERA sent me an email the other day asking me to be a peer reviewer for conference presentation proposals and I laughed — yes, you’d *really* pick me…

    No, there’s a presumed perspective on facts, and that’s a given.

    Of course White men are the most likely mass shooters because, well, everyone knows that and there is no reason to confuse ourselves with the facts.

    1. AERA = American Educational Research Association, a professional organization.

      Sorry folks, I forgot that not everyone knows that…

    2. Of course, if all conservatives who get asked take your attitude, then there won’t be any conservative reviewers, and then conservatives will complain of bias…

    3. That is both Lester Holt’s and Don Lemon’s positions on reporting the news. Which is why their ratings are in the sewer.

      1. Lester Holt beats the right-wing broadcasts (Fox, Newsmax, OAN) roughly three to one (combining the clingers) on an average night. Holt also has had the best numbers in mainstream news for years.

        Other than that, though . . . Great comment!

        1. Is that really so, Rev.? Three to one? What’s your source?

          It’s contrary to everything I’ve heard on this. I thought Fox has led primetime news for years.

          “In primetime, Fox News was on top and averaged 2.62 million total viewers, followed by 2.3 million for MSNBC and 1.81 million for CNN. Tucker Carlson Tonight was first in the 25-54 demo, averaging 585,000 viewers. The network recently marked its 19th consecutive year as the top cable news network.”

          https://deadline.com/2021/02/cnn-ratings-january-msnbc-fox-news-1234685705/

    4. “I laughed — yes, you’d *really* pick me…”

      It is very funny to think any respectable organization would have you peer review anything.

      1. The US Government actually has…

        1. Ed,
          You have told us many times, that the government is populated by f*ckups

          1. Well in this instance he’s providing us with a claim of concrete evidence.

        2. Doctor. If you have a voice in education, please, help them.

          We suck in school performance. Kindergarten students in my local public school are being subjected to a course on white fragility, which is a form of emotional child abuse. Self esteem is being promoted, when intelligence is 50 times more powerful determinant of success. School discipline is being crushed, especially by the education law bar.

  4. Sigh.

    It’s unsurprising the bias. And the continued fake news that results.

    Just remember, a major part of the second Trump impeachment was that the protestors “killed” someone with a fire extinguisher. But that was…fake news.

    A presidential impeachment based on fake news. How? Why?

    1. It’s a law journal writing about a social scientific matter which used an adjective that was about one degree over it should have used and made a common mistake among laypersons about not taking proportionality into account. I imagine this kind of things is quite common but not nefarious when people write outside of their area of expertise and training (do lawyers even get much social science/statistics training?).

      But people straining to see conspiracies are always going to see conspiracies.

      1. “It’s a law journal writing about a social scientific matter which used an adjective that was about one degree over it should have used and made a common mistake among laypersons about not taking proportionality into account. I imagine this kind of things is quite common but not nefarious when people write outside of their area of expertise and training (do lawyers even get much social science/statistics training?).”

        Before the WOKE PC revolution that use to be called ‘blowing it out your ass”.

        1. Spouting off confidently about things outside of one’s expertise is a tradition older than prostitution.

          1. And editors exist to remind people of that.

            And here, they apparently didn’t.

            Now why might that be???

            1. There are thousands of academic journals, tens of thousands of yearly submitted articles, things are going to be missed. You’re ending up making the same kind of mathematical mistake this very OP points to.

              1. Actually hundreds of thousands of submissions annually.
                It is inevitable that things are missed especially because authors pressure editors to get reviews done quickly.

            2. Jesus, Ed, you objecting to ‘spouting off confidently about things outside of one’s expertise’ is very rich.

            3. Because they did not get multiple independent reviews

      2. It’s a law journal writing about a social scientific matter which used an adjective that was about one degree over it should have used

        Why would the results in a scientific journal use any adjectives?
        A scientific journal should not use adjectives.

        1. Setting aside whether your claim is right, this post isn’t about a scientific journal.

    2. “A presidential impeachment based on fake news. How? Why?”

      And do you really believe the impeachment managers weren’t privy to the truth? Remember, the Capitol police work for Congress.

      1. Brett, stop with your stupid bad faith arguments claiming that everyone else is acting in bad faith. No, they don’t “work for Congress,” except in the loosest sense, that Congress appoints the head of the agency. But even using that loose sense, how does it prove anything? As I’ve told you and your fellow idiot conspiracy theorists repeatedly, they do not work for Pelosi. They work for the House and Senate. If the House impeachment managers were aware, then so were the Senate defenders of Trump. And yet none of them made this argument. Probably because it’s incredibly stupid, and the truth is that the information wasn’t available back then.

        Of course, your silliness doesn’t even compare to Armchair Lawyer’s lying about the reason for impeachment, which was not that Sicknick died.

  5. “from one of the top law journals in the country ”

    Which one?

    1. I didn’t want to unduly personalize this (or the equivalent of personalizing as to journals); I just wanted to note the sort of mistake that is sometimes made. If people really do want to find the relevant journal, though, a quick search should work.

      1. My quick search suggests that it was this article from the Yale Law Journal, which among those who pay any attention to law reviews and their respective merits, is certainly traditionally among the “top law journals in the country.”

        I can understand why you were reluctant to name and link it directly in your post, Professor Volohk, but I’m sure you also appreciate the rather thick irony in that, in an otherwise very commendable post about transparency. Respectfully — and precisely because, as you point out in your comment and obviously knew when you constructed your post, the offending article can be so easily found from the quoted text — this fig leaf wasn’t worth creating, sir.

        Prof. Mayson, an assistant professor of law at Georgia, is presumably looking toward a tenured position there or somewhere, and certainly work she’s gotten published somewhere as prestigious as Yale will be offered in support of her goal. This incident ought to be considered too.

        1. Well, if anyone still considers the racist college “Yale” as prestigious – – – – – –

  6. Mass shooters aren’t deterred by more guns because they are either mentally deranged or suicidal or both. So that is why mass shooters have targeted armed police, armed gun store owners, and armed warriors at gun ranges. The mass shooters since Columbine are most likely copycats that want to go out in a blaze of glory and so more media coverage perpetuates this awful cycle of violence these last 20 years.

    1. Some are, some aren’t. But even if not, the point of armed civilians is not to deter mass shooters, but to be able to counter them. I acknowledge that the first few victims will be unavoidable, as the mas shooter will have the element of surprise on his side, but 3-4 victims is preferable to 20-25, no?

      1. Not even being armed — I like to remind people that everyone at Virginia Tech who broke the rules either lived or enabled others to live — while those who obeyed them — died.

        I’m reminded of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlyMZNURdmc

        1. You always “like to remind” people about things that aren’t true.

      2. Unfortunately we have enough examples to know that armed civilians don’t stop rampage shooters…so the shooters either commit suicide or stop shooting or the cops eventually kill them. I think a Texas mass shooter was engaged by an armed civilian but only after the mass shooter killed 26 people over 11 minutes and discharged 700 rounds…so the shooter had already completed his mass shooting and the cops were on the way.

        1. No, we don’t have enough examples, as there has rarely been an armed civilian present. How many instances were armed civilians victims?

    2. “copycats that want to go out in a blaze of glory”

      There is a LOT to be said for that — what’s rarely mentioned is that when they go search the residence of one of these perps, the walls are *covered* with clippings about other mass shootings.

      The news coverage does motivate them, which is why I try never to use their names and wish others didn’t.

      1. If it’s rarely mentioned, how would you know about it? Could it be that it isn’t?

  7. In some ways I see EV’s point as being similar to what in math class use to be called ‘showing your work’. Problem is now showing your work is suppose to be racist and a sign of being a white supremist.

    1. “Problem is now showing your work is suppose to be racist and a sign of being a white supremist.”

      It must hurt your back to carry that much grievance around all the time…

      1. Why blame him and not the teachers that make this claim?

        1. What teachers are making the claim that showing your work is racist and a sign of white supremacy? I’ve got kids in various levels of school, I assure you they are still being asked to show their work in math class (in some ways more so than when I was there).

          1. I mean, I’m sure Fox or whatever has dug out some teacher somewhere doing this. But I seriously doubt this is common, much less standard.

            1. You really can’t find anything, can you?

          2. Results of a quick google search:

            “In a newsletter to math teachers, ODE promoted an independent project that has materials on its website that read, “White supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when … students are required to ‘show their work.'”

            (this was widely reported at the time, though perhaps not equally covered in all media bubbles)

            1. An equally quick search revealed a less inflammatory and common thing going on here:

              https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/education-oregon/

              “it’s true a project designed by dozens of school administrators and scholars said expanding options for math students to explain their processes for answering questions could help close racial and language gaps in teaching, addressing existing “white supremacy culture.” But it was false to frame that recommendation as a mandatory directive from ODE to teachers, or to suggest the department itself said the standard idea of “showing work” is a form of white supremacy. For those reasons, we rate this claim a “Mixture” of truth and misleading information.”

              1. “But it was false to frame that recommendation as a mandatory directive from ODE to teachers, or to suggest the department itself said the standard idea of “showing work” is a form of white supremacy.”

                Gee, then I guess it’s a good thing that nobody on this thread made either claim.

                So again, why not just criticize the teachers who are claiming that requiring students to show their work is white supremacy, instead of the people who are pointing it out?

                1. Because such teachers are not commonplace? Yeah, I’m not falling for a moral panic that I relate everything back to and I don’t think others should as well. There will always be some oddballs in any field who will say an oddball thing. Taking it and running with it as if it means anything other than ‘some oddballs said something few took seriously) is unhelpful to say the least.

                  1. So, let’s unpack this. Eugene has a post about someone who made a mistake common to people not in social science fields. Ragebot uses it as an opportunity to say that “now showing your work is suppose to be racist and a sign of being a white supremist.” This is a pretty general statement! What is its basis? Why it was a newsletter sent by a group of people in Oregon earlier this year in Oregon and a might bit more complicated at that.

                    So yeah, using that to say “showing your work is suppose to be racist and a sign of being a white supremist.” (good thing showing one’s work in spelling and verb tense is not racist and white supremist now I guess) is an example of someone engaging in a Fox news type of moral panic.

                    1. “Ragebot uses it as an opportunity to say that “now showing your work is suppose to be racist and a sign of being a white supremist.” This is a pretty general statement! What is its basis?”

                      You could have asked. Or googled and found out what he was talking about.

                      “Why it was a newsletter sent by a group of people in Oregon earlier this year in Oregon and a might bit more complicated at that.”

                      If you follow the woke bullshit being circulated in the education community you have a pretty good idea of why stuff like this is being sent out.

                    2. TiP, wherever you’re getting your crap about woke schooling, it’s a mixture of purposeful misinterpretation, nutpicking, and purposeful lack of perspective.

                      IOW, you’re buying lies.

                    3. “Why it was a newsletter sent by a group of people in Oregon …”

                      Here is another:

                      “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the only donor listed on a website for a group dedicated to eliminating racism from the nation’s math curriculum, which would be accomplished, in part, by eliminating the need for students to show their work after solving a math problem.”

                      Dunno who this Gates guy is, probably just some crank without any influence.

                    4. “You could have asked. Or googled and found out what he was talking about. ”

                      If you follow the outrage bullshit being circulated in the conservative media you have a pretty good idea of why stuff like this is being sent out.

                    5. Listed…as a donor? For a…group? That has a program that…in part refers to that?

                      Wow, you certainly proved how pervasive that is!

                      Again, If you follow the outrage bullshit being circulated in the conservative media you have a pretty good idea of why stuff like this Washington Examiner bullshit is being sent out.

                      Now why someone would conclude it’s commonplace from the bullshit story, that’s another question.

                    6. “TiP, wherever you’re getting your crap about woke schooling, it’s a mixture of purposeful misinterpretation, nutpicking, and purposeful lack of perspective.”

                      Lol. Whatever it is, it can’t be actual stuff educational professionals are saying, right?

                    7. “If you follow the outrage bullshit being circulated in the conservative media you have a pretty good idea of why stuff like this Washington Examiner bullshit is being sent out.”

                      So I’d imagine that you’re really pissed off at the Oregon DOE and the Gates foundation for enabling these bullshit stories by the Washington Examiner, no? But I don’t hear any criticism of them from you.

          3. QA,
            I seldom showed much as most of the calculations on exams can be done in one’s head.
            If a proof is requested that required explicit detail

          4. “What teachers are making the claim that showing your work is racist and a sign of white supremacy?”

            Oregon Dept. of Education: Asking Students To ‘Show Their Work’ In Math Class Is A Form Of White Supremacy

            https://www.dailywire.com/news/asking-students-to-show-their-work-in-math-class-is-a-form-of-white-supremacy

  8. “I’m pretty sure this was an honest mistake”

    I’m pretty sure it was not.

    1. Of course, you find bad faith in all who disagree with you.

      1. If the shoe fits.

        1. Cynicism and paranoia are, of course, very attractive to fascists.

          1. I see the same thing in the AOC-left

            1. I would include Sanders, and I’m certainly no fan.

  9. You could take this a step further and argue that an article should not imply that there is scientific support for a position when there is none. “Idea laundering refers to a process that may be growing more common in academic publishing. It involves the capture of peer review processes by activists to create the false impression that certain ideologically and rhetorically useful claims have scientific credibility, even when, by conventional scientific standards of rigor, logic, and strong evidence, the claims command no credence.” See Microaggressions, Questionable Science, and Free Speech by Edward Cantu & Lee Jussim at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3822628.

    “In short, it is a mistake to believe that, merely because an idea appears frequently in academic publications, it constitutes scientific fact.” “After reviewing scholarship in which psychologists attempt to confirm the legitimacy of the CMC, and in which they debate the issue with dissenting psychologists, we conclude that the current operationalization of the CMC in social justice discourse, legal scholarship, and education administration is significantly unwarranted.”

    1. This is straining. You don’t need some big concept of systemic bias (that’s what your article is arguing btw) to explain why a non-expert would make a mistake about the degree of adjective to use in a claim outside of their field or not get the mistake they are making re proportionality. In my research class it’s a mistake made by many, many students who are not part of some conspiracy or dolts.

      1. I pity your students….

        1. They’d pity you. They don’t go about predicting Apocalypses and Civil War 2 and comparing the Chauvin case to the Scottsboro boys, among other lunacies. Their mistake is a much more natural and common one for laypersons to make. My clients do it all the time as well.

      2. You don’t need some big concept of systemic bias (that’s what your article is arguing btw) to explain why a non-expert would make a mistake about the degree of adjective to use in a claim outside of their field

        WADR, I don’t think describing this as an adjective error is accurate. The point was just wrong. Yes, it’s true that “white men have committed the majority” would’ve been mathematically correct where “vast majority” was not, but it still would have been substantively wrong, because it was being used in service of an argument about disproportionality/overrepresentation that wasn’t true.

  10. Good lesson prof. It should be inscribed in granite outside the front door.

  11. I agree. I have seen both innocent transcription error and lying about the conclusion of a cited paper.

  12. I can only speak to my own day as a law review editor at Texas in 1979-1980: If our junior (2d-year) members assigned to do the vetting (we called it “Bluebook cite checking,” but it extended far beyond simply confirming proper citation form) had missed this mistake, it would definitely have resulted in their being dismissed from the Texas Law Review’s membership, which in turn would have had serious career consequences for the individuals involved.

  13. Most Republicans still believe left-wing agitators attacked the Capitol on January 6.

    Most Republicans believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

    Most Republicans believe the 2020 presidential election involved massive fraud.

    Most Republicans reject the coronavirus vaccine; plenty of them consider the pandemic a hoax.

    Prof. Volokh is worried about mainstream credibility.

    Carry on, clingers,

    1. Well, Professor, I guess the Dean will have to make another apology on your behalf. I mean, why did you single out this poor law journal for some minor nitpicking error at a time when this whole country is suffering a plague of whiteness? Alas, the whites are our misfortune.

      /sarc

  14. People like to flip back and forth with what “mass shooting” means to get the result they want.

    Want to support your gun control arguments? Use the FBI definition. The US has hundreds of mass shootings per year!

    Of course, that’s mostly gang shootings, which are predominantly black and Hispanic.

    So if you want to race bait with mass shooter demographics, you switch on over to the ‘random attack on strangers in a public place’ type of mass shooting, which are far more rare but have better demographics.

    I also get a chuckle from ‘mistakes’ like described here… because if you look at people shot by police, you better believe all these same people understand and care about is the per capita rate, because in raw numbers they’re majority white, and we can’t go having people thinking ‘well, maybe police shouldn’t be shooting *any* unarmed people who aren’t threats’. Nope, it’s only about race, and one day when among unarmed non-threatening people executed by police, only exactly 13% are black, then that will be true justice and mission accomplished.

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