There it was again Thursday morning on National Public Radio -- the same old line we've heard repeated by CNN, CNBC, CBS, NBC, the BBC -- especially since Feb. 14: America has more deaths from mass shootings than anywhere else in the world.
Only, it doesn't.
True, America has a lot of handgun violence. But we don't have, as relentlessly suggested by news commentators, more mass shootings than anybody else and we're not the most gun-violent nation on the planet. Not even close.
And it's plain wrong to continue repeating a faux fact for political expediency, or for any reason -- especially when it's dividing our nation and insulating citizens from looking at real social ills in a country where troubled kids shooting up schools is mostly a 21st century phenomenon.
Not only does the U.S. fail to lead the world in mass shootings, it doesn't even make the top 10 when measured by death rate per million population from mass public shootings.
It's all documented in a study of global mass-shooting incidents from 2009 to 2015 by the Crime Prevention Research Center, headed by economist John Lott.
If the U.S. doesn't top the list, who does? The answer is Norway, a socialist nation. Its mass-shooting death rate is a whopping 1.888 per million -- admittedly a number likely to fall in years to come. The 2011 rifle assault by political extremist Anders Brevik that claimed 77 lives makes the Scandinavian country something of an outlier in the murder-by-gun department.
Coming in at No. 2 is Serbia, at 0.381, followed by France at 0.347, Macedonia at 0.337, and Albania at 0.206. Slovakia, Finland, Belgium, and the Czech Republic all follow. Then comes the U.S. at No. 11, with a death rate from mass shootings of 0.089. See a screen shot of Lott's chart displayed on this page.
Probably no one ever told you there were 27 percent more casualties from 2009 to 2015 per mass shooting incident in the European Union than in the U.S.
"There were 16 cases where at least 15 people were killed," the study found. "Of those cases, four were in the United States, two in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom."
Here's the rub: Lott continues, "The U.S. has a population four times greater than Germany's and five times the UK's, so on a per-capita basis the U.S. ranks low in comparison -- actually, those two countries would have had a frequency of attacks 1.96 (Germany) and 2.46 (UK) times higher" than ours.
We have nothing to be proud of, I'm not trying to tell you we do. But our mass-murder rate is nowhere near the highest in the developed world.
Banning rifles? If you go by FBI crime data, America would be better off banning knives. Deaths by knives in the U.S. outnumber deaths by rifles by 5 to 1. In 2016, 1,604 people were killed by knives and other cutting instruments, while 374 were killed by rifles.
Bombs are illegal in both the U.S. and Europe. Consider that Europe loses a whole lot more people than we do to bombings. Wouldn't we be justified in claiming Europeans are more violent than we are based on the proliferation of bombings in high-traffic areas?
Seems to me, rather than politicizing the deaths of 14 students and three teachers by calling for more gun-control measures, Democrats and their friends in the media should instead be pushing for better school security, for our law enforcement agencies to respond more aggressively to clear threats. Those who are severely mentally ill or psychotic or potentially violent need to be identified and given the help they need. That gives us all a chance to live.
As CNN political commentator C.E. Cupp noted six days after Nikolas Cruz launched into the entirely preventable killing spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, "It certainly seems like we need to find better ways to address the stunning commonality in all these mass shootings, which is that the men who perpetrate them are sick -- Las Vegas, Pulse nightclub, Newtown, Columbine, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora -- on and on, these killers were mentally ill and in almost every case, someone knew it."
What you rarely hear -- and what I didn't hear on NPR Thursday -- are discussions of the important issues poisoning our society that no amount of gun control can stop.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith