On the March 26, 2018 episode of his show, Alex Jones made a very weird pronouncement about mass shootings, namely that when "they" do mass shootings in "Red Areas," someone shoots the shooter in minutes flat:
(Note: Alex uses the term "red area," so he can avoid being pinned down because he's speaking so vaguely. What does a "red area" mean? A city with a Republican mayor? A city where the police chief is Republican? It doesn't matter because the example he uses later in the clip is Texas, a state, so if that is his example, we are going to interpret "area" to mean "state." If he wants pretend he's talking about city or county governments, but then his example is a state, that is just absurd.)
Alex's commentary is meant to juxtapose the difference between the Red States (where "the Patriots are") and the Blue States (where "the Globalists" are). He can pretend all he wants that he is not a complete hack and shill for the Republican party, but little things like this clumsy dichotomy kind of give away what he really thinks about what team he's on.
Team loyalty aside, there are some incredibly basic problems with the rhetoric Alex is putting out on his show, mostly that it seems to be based on nothing.
To begin looking at his argument, we have to first consider that what is making Alex so mad is the difference he perceives in how things went with the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL and the shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX. The prior he sees as being how Blue States react to mass shootings, and the latter how Red States react to them.
The first problem with his argument is that no matter how you define Red State, Florida is a Red State. They voted for Trump, and famously for W. Bush before, and Republican Rick Scott has been their governor since 2011.
Then, he uses the example of the Sutherland Springs shooting in Texas to illustrate what happens in Red States: the shooter gets taken out immediately. The issue here is incredibly muddy, because yes, citizen Stephen Willeford was able to confront the shooter in that situation and gave him chase, but ultimately what happened to the shooter was that he committed suicide in his car after he drove into a ditch. It is good and commendable what Willeford did, but odds are, once cornered, whether it be at the church or in his car or home later, the shooter would have done what so many mass shooters do, kill themselves once there is no way out.
Just based on his examples being both from mass shootings that happened in Red States, I probably should have left it alone and laughed it off as just another time when Alex was dumb. But I couldn't. I was very curious about the claims he was making. Were they based on anything? What differences could by found between mass shootings in Red and Blue States?
What follows is the end result of me spending way too much time trying to answer those questions.
I started by looking at the intersection of the two beliefs that Alex is espousing: "there are more Patriots with guns in Red States" and "where there are more guns in the hands of Patriots, there will be less severe shootings, since they stop the shootings in minutes." These two premises should lead to the conclusion that there would be less severe mass shootings in Red States. Statistically speaking, it turns out this argument sucks:
- Of the 50 highest fatality count mass shootings in 2016, 34 were in red states and 16 in blue states.
- Of the 50 highest fatality count mass shootings in 2017, 36 were in red states and 14 in blue states.
- Of the 50 mass shootings thus far in 2018, 38 were in red states and 12 have been in blue states. The 9 single deadliest have all been in red states.
At first glance, this should illustrate that there are definitely more severe mass shootings in Red States. It may demonstrate that there is something beyond a correlation between greater severity in the incidence of mass shootings and being in a red state, but without a more scientific analysis, it would be overzealous to make that argument.
I started to reflect, and I realized that maybe Alex is not defining Red State/Blue State not on how the public votes in the general election, but by what party their Governor belongs to. Those numbers look like this:
- 2016: 32 of the 50 worst mass shootings in states with Republican governors, 18 in states with Democrat governors.
- 2017: 36 in Republican governor states, 14 in Democrat governor states.
- 2018: 37 in Republican governor states, 13 in Democrat governor states.
Interestingly, a couple of shootings swapped back and forth between Red and Blue designation, but on the whole, the numbers look pretty similar.
But! The argument could be made that there are more red states, so that could skew the data. That is an interesting point, and if you look at the 2015 census, the population of the Red States combined comes to about 181 million, as opposed to the 140 million for Blue States. This means that the Red States have approximately a 29% higher population total, and if you look at the numbers, in the last three years, there has been way more than a 29% higher incidence of high-fatality mass shootings in Red States. The numbers are much closer to 100% higher.
Then, factoring in that most of the more urbanized centers in the US are in Blue States (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago,-- although Chicago could fall in either column, depending on whether you are defining color of state by voting or governor), and you consider that higher crime rates tend to be associated with areas of higher population density, you would expect to see the numbers skewed toward Blue State mass shootings, but when you look at the most severe mass shootings, this expectation does not turn out to be accurate.
There's clearly something going on where there is a correlation between Red States and more severe mass shootings, but without further study, it would be impossible to say what that is. It's irrelevant to the larger question, however, since Alex just said that the shooters in Red State shootings get killed immediately because that's where Real Americans are and they don't back down.
I wanted to analyze Alex's claim that mass shootings that happen in Red States end quicker, so I reviewed the data, and found that his claim has literally no basis in reality. Let's look at some of the worst mass shootings in 2017 to illustrate why Alex is an idiot:
- Las Vegas shooting: 59 killed, 441 injured. Nevada votes blue, but has had a Republican governor since 2011
Shooting began at 10:05 PM, police announced suspect was down, having killed himself at 11:27 PM.
- Sutherland Springs shooting: 27 killed, 20 injured. Texas votes red, has only had Republican governors since 1995
Shooter killed himself after being confronted and chased by Stephen Willeford. The shooter was likely motivated by anger at his former mother-in-law who attended that church. He also had a history of domestic violence
- Plano shooting: 9 killed, 1 injured. Texas is absolutely a Red State
Shooter was approximately 4 times the legal level of intoxication and started shooting his wife (who had recently filed for divorce) and her friends at a football watch party. A bartender called the police before the shooter left for the victim's house, so they were able to respond quickly and kill him.
- Bogue Chitto shooting: 8 killed, 1 injured. Louisiana votes red, but has a Democratic governor since 2016
The shooter got into a disturbance with his mother-in-law at her home and killed her as well as three others, including a Sheriff's deputy. He then proceeded to kill 4 additional people at two locations before being arrested and charged. He had a history of domestic violence, and when asked about being arrested, he said: "My intentions was to have God kill me. I ran out of bullets. Suicide by cop was my intention."
- Orlando shooting: 6 killed. Florida votes red, and has had a Republican governor since 2011
The shooter was drunk, and killed 5 people at his former place of employment. He had been fired, and had an extensive rap sheet for being violent with co-workers and even was cited in the past for stalking. After killing 5 people, he killed himself.
- Rancho Tehama shooting: 6 killed, 12 injured. California votes blue, and has a Democratic governor
The shooter killed 5 people, including his wife, then killed himself as the police engaged his vehicle later. The shooter had a long rap sheet of assaulting women, including instances of him shooting at a couple of women through his fence, then jumping the fence and stabbing one of them. He was set to stand trial for this before his shooting spree and suicide.
So, if we just look at these six cases, we see a bit of a trend forming already, and it has almost nothing to do with any red/blue state distinction. On an elementary level, we see very clearly that it is men perpetrating these crimes. Further, we see very clearly that almost all of them had deep histories of domestic violence, generally against women. Lastly, we see that they all did not seem to care all that much about the idea of getting caught, and either planned to kill themselves, wanted to commit suicide by cop, or were too drunk to know what to do.
And I'm not just stopping with six because the trend stops there and I'm trying to force an argument. The next five of the most deadly mass shootings in 2017 were all in Red States, and many of them done by shooters with a history of domestic violence, and only one of them (the one that took place in the Ft. Lauderdale airport) ended quickly (because it was in an airport). The rest of them, all in Red States, involved multiple locations or stand-offs.
This is all to say, very basically, Alex's argument makes no sense.
But! Maybe 2017 was an anomaly. Let's look at 2018's worst mass shootings so far:
- Parkland shooting: 17 killed, 17 injured. Florida votes red, and has a Republican governor
Shooter was not apprehended immediately, and had a history of domestic violence.
- Paintsville shooting: 5 killed. Kentucky votes red, and has a Republican governor
Shooter killed his parents, then his girlfriend and her mother, then himself.
- Melcroft shooting: 5 killed. Pennsylvania voted red, but has a Democrat governor
Shooter was obsessed with one of the female victims who he may have had a brief relationship with in the past and that was his primary motivation in the shooting. He then shot himself in the head and died at the hospital.
- Detroit shooting #1: 5 killed. Michigan voted red, and has a Republican governor
Shooter killed the mother of his child at a gas station, along with her father and another woman who was there. He fled the scene and went to his cousin's house, where he killed his cousin, who he thought might have been having an affair with the mother of his child. When police eventually caught up with him, he killed himself.
- Detroit shooting #2: 4 killed, 3 injured. Michigan voted red, and has a Republican governor
Shooter barricaded himself in an apartment, having killed three women: his girlfriend, her mother, and her aunt. Three police officers were shot in an hours-long stand-off that ended when the shooter was found dead at his own hands.
- Lake Worth shooting: 3 killed, 3 injured. Florida voted red and has a Republican governor
The shooter was at a store with his girlfriend at which point he shot her in the head. He put her in the car and drove off on I-95, eventually shoving her out of the car into an oncoming SUV, then drove away the wrong direction on the interstate, ending up causing three head-on crashes. Police tried to confront him after the crash, but ended up having to shoot him. In the past, the shooter had threatened to kill his grandmother and had extorted her for money.
I think you get the point.
But, because Alex Jones' claim is about the quickness with which Red States deal with mass shootings, and because I am a sucker for compiling too much data, I wanted to analyze that allegation even more precisely to see if there was a difference in how quickly mass shootings get resolved in Red/Blue States. For the purposes here, I'm only considering shootings where more than one person has been killed, and I am defining a state's color based on how they vote.
Here are the findings for 2018:
- There have been 14 mass shootings that fit my criteria in 2018. 13 of these have happened in Red States and 1 in a Blue State.
- The one in a Blue State ended with the suspect being killed in a shootout with police, which I count as "immediate resolution" since the initial crime was "shooting police" after a traffic stop investigating a stolen car went bad.
- 2/13 mass shootings in Red States in 2018 are cases where no arrests have been made
- 2/13 ended in suicides after car chases.
- 3/13 ended in suicides at the scene of the shooting, one of which was after a 14 hour stand-off with police.
- 1/13 ended with the shooter getting arrested 48 days after the shooting
- 4/13 ended in an arrest at a second location from the shooting, between 1-2 hours later
- The final 1/13 ended in an arrest in 9 minutes, but it was a 15 year old boy who was mid-school shooting and first responders were well trained for that.
As you can see, the reality of 2018 does not match up with Alex's conception that Red States respond quicker or better than Blue States to mass shootings. Pretty much none of this backs up his claim.
But, that's just 2018. It's only March, maybe the sample size is too small to judge anything. In order to get a better picture, it would probably be best to look at 2017 too.
For this, I looked at the 50 most deadly mass shootings of 2017, which covered every one that ended in more than 2 fatalities. Here are the findings:
- 36 of the 50 most deadly mass shootings of 2017 happened in Red States, 14 in Blue States.
- 2/14 (14%) of the shootings in Blue States resulted in cases that are still open. 5/36 of the shootings in Red States (14%) are still unsolved.
- 3/14 (21%) of the shootings in Blue States resulted in the shooter committing suicide when the cops arrived or before, compared to 8/36 (22%) of the shootings in Red States.
- 2/14 (14%) of the shootings in Blue States resulted in the shooter being killed on site by the police, compared to 2/36 (5%) of the shootings in Red States.
- 5/14 (35%) of the shootings in Blue States resulted in suspects being arrested within two days of the shooting, compared to 15/36 (41%) in Red States.
- 1/14 (7%) of the shootings in Blue States resulted in arrests in between three days and two weeks after the shooting, compared to 2/36 (5%) in Red States in that time frame.
- The remaining mass shooting in a Blue State led to a six-month long investigation that resulted in 8 arrests related to gang violence.
- The remaining four mass shootings in Red States resulted in arrests after 16 days, 24 days, 67 days, and 116 days respectively.
Looking at the most deadly mass shootings over the past few years, you end up seeing little difference in the response that you see in Red and Blue States. Statistically, the only really relevant number you will find in any of this analysis is that there are substantially more severe mass shootings in Red States than in Blue States; the resolution rates are pretty close to identical. Whether this intrinsically means anything about the "character" of Red or Blue States is a meaningless question, and I have no interest in using this information to condemn Republican areas or lionize Democratic ones.
In compiling this data, I read over countless articles about the various mass shootings that the people of our country have to fall victim to, have to survive and recover from, and have to deal with the pain of for the rest of their lives. It was a sickening glimpse into a world of tragedy that so many have to live in, and it made me feel terrible to be keenly aware that each story I read represented dozens of people (if not far more) whose lives will never be the same. Whether they be a survivor with PTSD, or a victim's family member who is deprived of their loved one, the heart hung heavy for them.
One thing that anyone who takes any time to look at this will find that an overwhelming majority of these mass shootings have their roots in men wanting to kill their romantic partner, or them wanting to kill someone they perceive as taking away their former romantic partner. When you recognize how many of these senseless murders are attributable to these motivations, you have to either admit that you are okay with men behaving like this, or that something very clearly needs to be done to stop this, and that means either dealing with the gun issue or the male violence issue.
Many people far smarter than I have written very insightful pieces about the intersection of domestic violence and mass shootings, so I will leave this matter there, and recommend you research that matter on your own if you're interested. Suffice it to say that this is the bigger issue, not some imaginary Red/Blue State divide.