CNN Pushes Disputed Claims U.S. Leads World in Mass Shootings

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

On Friday afternoon, CNN's Ana Cabrera -- newly transferred from weekend host to her new weekday job -- presented viewers the typical one-sided anti-gun discussion in reaction to a mass shooting in Indianapolis.

Even though the accuracy of his work has been disputed, University of Alabama crime researcher Adam Lankford was given a forum to misleadingly argue that the U.S. has one of the worst mass shooting problems of any country in the world, and blaming it on too much availability of guns.

It was not mentioned that prominent right-leaning crime expert John Lott has challenged his findings, and argues the opposite -- that the U.S. has a relatively lower rate of the kinds of large-scale public shootings that so often attract media attention.

After a report on a shooting that left eight dead at a FedEx office in Indianapolis the night before, Cabrera claimed: "So we've told you the numbers. In fact, the U.S. leads the world in mass shootings. But why? I recently asked Professor Adam Lankford. He's been studying mass shootings for years."

Then came a pre-recorded clip of Professor Lankford portraying the U.S. as having a much worse mass shooting problem than other countries:

I did a study of 171 countries to really look at where public mass shooters attack most frequently and why. And, despite having less than five percent of the world's population, the United States had approximately 30 percent of the world's mass shooters -- really like six times what we should have if things were evenly distributed. And, in addition, we have more than 40 percent of the world's civilian firearms.

He added:

And so, to your point about guns, firearm access seemed to be a critical explanation here. I do not look for a bunch of possible explanations, but, really, what the data said was that firearm access explains why people here, when they want to do something bad, do something so bad when compared to people with bad intentions but less access in other countries.

Cabrera was then seen from the interview bringing up an argument sometimes made by Republicans that mental illness needs to be targeted to stop the wrong people from getting guns, leading Professor Lankford to reiterate that too much access to guns in the U.S. leads to more mass shootings: No guest from the right was present to question his claims in real time.

It was also not mentioned that Lankford and Lott have responded back and forth on the subject for several years as Lott argues that the U.S. has disproportionately fewer mass shootings as compared to other countries.

This one-sided anti-gun segment on CNN was sponsored in part by Progressive. Their contact information is linked.

Transcript follows:

CNN Newsroom

April 16, 2021

1:09 p.m. Eastern

ANA CABRERA: So we've told you the numbers. In fact, the U.S. leads the world in mass shootings. But why? I recently asked Professor Adam Lankford. He's been studying mass shootings for years.

PROFESSOR ADAM LANKFORD, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: I did a study of 171 countries to really look at where public mass shooters attack most frequently and why. And, despite having less than five percent of the world's population, the United States had approximately 30 percent of the world's mass shooters -- really like six times what we should have if things were evenly distributed. And, in addition, we have more than 40 percent of the world's civilian firearms.

And so, to your point about guns, firearm access seemed to be a critical explanation here. I do not look for a bunch of possible explanations, but, really, what the data said was that firearm access explains why people here, when they want to do something bad, do something so bad when compared to people with bad intentions but less access in other countries.

CABRERA: Politicians often throw out various factors to try to explain mass shootings in America. One of those is mental illness. Listen.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX): Let's target the bad guys -- the felons, fugitives, those with mental disease -- let's put them in jail -- let's stop them from getting guns.

MITCH MCCONNELL, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: The real challenge here is mental illness, and identifying people who are likely to do this kind of thing in advance is very, very difficult.

CABRERA: Adam, what did your research find about whether there is a correlation between mass shootings and mental illness?

LANKFORD: Well, so I think it's important to acknowledge that certainly, you know, if you look at individual mass shooters, they often could benefit from mental health treatment, but that doesn't explain why the United States is so different from the rest of the world. So one of the things I looked at is suicide rates, and suicide and mental illness are closely correlated, and the United States does not have anywhere near the worst suicide problem in the world.

And if you think about treatment and services, there are a lot of countries around the world that wish they had our treatment services -- our medication -- so, ultimately, the key is: What makes the United States different as a factor that could explain why we're so different when it comes to this form of violence, and mental illness just isn't it.

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