"Of the 86 countries where we have identified mass public shootings,
the US ranks 56th per capita in its rate of attacks and 61st in mass
public shooting murder rate. Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Russia
all have at least 45 percent higher rates of murder from mass public
shootings than the United States." (bolding mine)
I don't think it would be a particularly controversial claim to say that the US has lower gun violence rates (including lower mass shooting rates) than impoverished countries. However, the claim that Norway, Finland and Switzerland have higher mass shooting rates than the US leaves me skeptical due to the large disparity in overall gun violence.
Does the US not have a higher mass shooting rate than Norway, Finland or Switzerland? Do the above numbers, as presented, accurately depict the reality of mass shootings?
By browsing this, it is clear that the claims include acts of terrorism and war. (But being curiously selective about it, I found no reference to attacks by US or allied forces in Afghanistan, only the Taliban and their allies.)
There is no war going on in the US. There are very few terrorist attacks there. This means that, yes, it is safer in the US than many other places. Mass shootings in the US gain massive headlines, but aren't all that common, really, compared to war zones.
I jumped a bit at seeing Norway mentioned, since we are a peaceful country. Looking at the list, I see one single shooting. It turns out that in a small country with only 5 million people, a single shooting is enough to put us above the US. Technically correct, but hardly statistically significant.
It is an interesting fact that there are very few terrorist attacks in the US. Given that they are "the great enemy" according to many terrorist organizations, one might expect there to be more.
As discussed in this answer and this answer when you use a term like "mass shooting", your results become particularly sensitive to your definition. Additionally, results will be sensitive to search strategy, since cases are assembled from searches for news reports. Because the results are sensitive to definition and search strategy, they are susceptible to bias.
The study the OpEd references was conducted by the same Crime Prevention Research Center, was not peer reviewed, and does not have a coherent methods section with a well defined search strategy or case definition. To me, it reads like an undergraduate student's report or a blog post, not an academic study. Most of the section on definitions and search strategy is a discussion of perceived problems with a peer reviewed study by Adam Lankford that is beyond the scope of this claim. They start with events listed in the University of Maryland Global Terrorism Database, and then add events found using a defined nexis search and an undefined "web search", which included wikipedia.
While it is possible the claim is true, the evidence used to support it is not peer reviewed or thoroughly described, and it is conducted by a biased source.
The first thing to note about the rankings is that Lott has compared
the mass shooting death rate in the United States with that of other
countries where there was a mass shooting between 2009 and 2015. This
might seem obvious, but it’s important to point out that very many
countries did not see a single mass shooting as defined by Lott during
The second striking thing about the list of mass shootings in Europe
is that it is dominated by outliers. Where the United States saw at
least twelve mass shooting deaths every year between 2009 and 2015,
some of the other countries on Lott’s list experienced one or two rare
but very high-casualty shootings. When you average out the death
rates, this creates a highly misleading impression about the
consistency and lethality of mass shootings outside the United States.
TL;DR? The USA has so many mass shootings that the average deaths-per-shooting is lower than other places.
Let's break down what he's calculating: The rates of murder from mass public shootings per million people.
This means that, when there is a mass shooting(1) in public(2), that if we account for population(3), more people are murdered(4) .
By using a baseline of one mass shooting = one mass shooting, he's already removed the point of contention: that the USA has many more mass shootings than anywhere else in the world. So already, Norway with one mass shooting is being equalized with the USA, with hundreds.
By specifying in public, he skews things even more in his favor. The United States does not currently have major conflicts or wars on its own soil, which he is counting towards this metric. Anecdotally, more people die in public than in private in a war, though I can't find any statistics to back that up.
By making it per million people, the fact that the USA has 360-odd million people is used as an advantage against smaller European countries.
This has generated a bit of confusion, so here's a simple example:
Let's use apples. I'm a farmer, and the local kids have been stealing my apples. They've stolen 100 apples over 10 incidents, for 10 per incident. However, the rats once got in and ate 15 apples. Does that make the rats a bigger threat, or the kids? I'd argue the kids (the US). They'd argue the rats (Norway).
There is another issue with this study. It states: "Of the 86 countries where we have identified mass public shootings, the US ranks 56th per capita in its rate of attacks and 61st in mass public shooting murder rate". However there are about 196 countries in the world today. It is not clear whether the other 110 countries were excluded on the grounds of missing data or whether they were excluded on the grounds that they had zero mass shootings. If it is the latter, then they have been mistakenly missed from the accounting procedure and the US should be ranked 56th out of 196 not 56th out of 86.
Another issue is that the FBI definition used by CPRC specifically excludes gang and drug related violence but not terrorism leading to an additional source of bias. The FBI report the CPRC reference, specifically states on page 5 that "This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings, but rather a study of a specific type of
shooting situation law enforcement and the public may face". This may decrease or increase the USA's relative ranking.
Note the subtle but important discrepancy between the headline and the detail:
"America doesn’t actually lead the world in mass shootings"
A new report from the Crime Prevention Research Center, which one of
us heads, has just finished collecting cases using the same definition
of mass public shootings used by Lankford.
John Lott/CPRC tend to focus specifically on public mass shootings, which actually excludes the majority of mass shootings. The exact numbers depend on which time periods and which definitions you use, but even this 2014 CPRC report acknowledges that the scope makes a huge difference. Condensing from pp. 4 & 5:
The 2014 CPRC report counts only public mass shootings and excludes "gang fights and shootings which occur in connection with some other crime, such as robbery". They contrast their results to Everytown For Gun Safety, which does include shootings that happen in private and those which are connected to other crimes. Over the period between January 2009 and July 2014, the CPRC criteria find 25 mass public shootings with a total of 180 deaths; in the same period, Everytown finds 110 mass shootings with 560 deaths.
In other words, according to CPRC's own publication, the "public mass shootings" included in their reports only cover about 32% of all mass-shooting deaths and 23% of mass-shooting incidents in the USA.
The headline of John Lott's NY Post article makes a claim about "mass shootings" in general, but the only evidence it offers for that claim is research on a specific subset that covers less than a third of mass shootings. That should be enough to mark it as highly questionable, even before we get into the cherry-picking issues that have been raised in other answers.