Article published Thursday, April 3, 2014, at Investor's Business Daily.

Michael Bloomberg, Gun Control And Fabricated Numbers

By John R. Lott, Jr.

No doubt, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg passionately believes in gun control.  To his credit, he puts his own money -- tens of millions of dollars and possibly much more - into pushing the issue politically.

But Bloomberg’s push hasn’t been just political advertising, lobbying, and media appearances. It goes beyond that. He funds studies that have gone overboard in backing up his anti-gun beliefs. To put it plainly, they have not only exaggerated their conclusions, but have fabricated numbers. And these incorrect numbers have then been used to push for more regulations.

The connections to Bloomberg are not always obvious, as he has funded several organizations, making it look like there is more widespread support. Besides money to Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, his name is not directly connected to two other organizations of which he is the primary financial supporter, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action.

Over the last couple of years, studies from these organizations have received massive, uncritical news coverage, without even the slightest questioning of the numbers presented.

Take the recent report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action on school shootings, which was covered by over 2,000 news stories. In February, they claimed that what they called “Mini-Newtowns” had become so common that the media no longer paid attention to them. After all, they claimed, 44 shootings had occurred in schools and colleges since the Newtown, Connecticut massacre on December 14, 2012. Out of the 44 shootings, a total of 28 people died.

“Mini-Newtowns”? Hardly. To inflate their numbers they included cases of legitimate self-defense as well as lone suicides late at night when no one else was around the school. Also included are late night shootings taking place even off school property or at the periphery of the grounds, often involving gangs. As “shootings,” they also include any incident where shots were fired, even when nobody was injured.

About 40 percent of the deaths (11 out of 28) were suicides.  Probably a third of the cases, with most of the remaining deaths, involved gang fights. Others involved robberies or other crimes.

Or take the oft-repeated claim that the powerful NRA has used its political muscle to keep people in the dark about the dangers of guns.  Supposedly, a 1996 amendment to the federal budget preventing the Centers for Disease Control from advocating gun control dramatically cut public health research on firearms. The NRA supported the amendment.

The supposed evidence?  A study from Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns claimed: “As a result, peer-reviewed research on gun violence has sharply declined. A review conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns showed that academic publishing on firearm violence fell by 60 percent between 1996 and 2010. . . . Academics working in the field describe how constricted federal funding for firearm research has discouraged research in the area.”

Some 2,340 news stories have made this claim. Yet, despite their claims about the number of medical journal studies, what the Bloomberg group measured was the percent of all medical journal articles on firearms. Actually, the number of academic studies increased. They got their percentage drop only because the number of medical studies in other areas increased even faster.

Then there is the attention given in the media during February about a forthcoming study on background checks, claiming that closing the so-called “gun-show loophole” – as Missouri did for a while – was effective in cutting down on murder. The study came from a researcher at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and received extensive coverage in such places as the BBC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and newspapers across the country.

Between 1981 and 2007, Missouri had what was known as “universal background checks,” including not just the federal “Brady Law” background checks but also requiring that all private sales of handguns also be subject to such checks.

While it is true that the murder rate in Missouri rose 17 percent relative to the rest of the U.S. in the five years after 2007, they neglected to note that it had actually increased by 32 percent during the previous five years. Thus Missouri was on an ominous path before the law was ended and things improved after the background checks were ended.

More importantly, however, was the cherry picking needed to obtain even this result. Eighteen other states either currently have these background checks or had them during the past three decades. Nor was it the only state that ended this law. When all the states are examined no change in murder rates was found.

But Bloomberg funded studies show one thing: a consistent willingness to do whatever is necessary, even make up data, to get the desired results. Disappointingly, the news media keeps giving Bloomberg funded research massive uncritical coverage.

John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of the recently released “At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over the Edge?”

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Some data not found at

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

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