Observational Bias in Mass-Shooting Stories

Why do we spend so much money on fire proofing buildings when we seem to have so few major fires? 

Via Instapundit comes this news story of an armed college student preventing a mass killing. I think the most interesting facet of the story is where it was reported. This story of a lawful citizen killing a home invader and preventing a mass killing didn’t appear in the New York Times, just the website of a local TV station. 

On the other hand, had the criminals carried out their apparent plan to murder the 10 victims in the apartment, does anyone doubt that such a horrible crime would have made nationwide news in every form of media? Does anyone doubt that a blizzard of opinion pieces would claim the murders as evidence of the need to disarm the citizenry?  

Crimes that never happen because gun owners prevented them don’t make the news. This creates a systematic distortion in the public perception of the tradeoffs of an armed citizenry. People only see the negative events caused by armed citizens and never the many, many positive events that don’t make the news because, well, no one cares if planes routinely land safely or a building doesn’t burn down. When an armed citizen prevents a major crime it’s only local news. When the prospect of encountering an armed citizen causes a criminal to not even attempt a crime, it doesn’t make news anywhere. 

The “gun control” debate boils down to arguments between people who understand that this distortion exist and those who don’t. 

3 thoughts on “Observational Bias in Mass-Shooting Stories”

  1. Nice Catch!

    This story shows the absurdity of allowing liberals to control the flow of information. Obama needs this control and may have to prop up the Boston Globe, NYT and others that routinely parrot His words. Words mean things and in this case, people are alive because they took action and didn’t try to solve the problem with ‘words.’

    Obama uses words to great effect. Unfortunately, he has overused several – like ‘inherited’ and ‘dialogue.’ For a lighter look at some of Obama’s other overused words, you can hit:

  2. As a literal Chicago Boy (BA 81, MBA 83, Phd (business economics) 87) I always enjoy reading the site. Liked this post in particular, and thought that others who took an interest in it would also be interested in an oped I wrote (with 3 other TX college profs) in support of concealed carry on college campuses. A bill to that effect is winding its way through the TX legislature.

    Here’s the oped from the Houston Chronicle.

    BTW, I was the only faculty senate member at UH to oppose a resolution opposing the concealed carry on campus law.

  3. Simply discount the news – anything in the national news is probably not a common problem.

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