Oct 6, 2015

Obama Claims Other Countries With No Guns Safer; Here’s the Truth

By on Tuesday, October 06, 2015

While discussing the recent mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, President Obama falsely claimed we need more gun regulations because “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.”
As a Washington Post fact-checker notes, the president’s claim was based on a misleading August 28 National Journal article by Libby Isenstein that has been touted by gun-control groups. That article bizarrely excluded many states with low homicide rates and few gun laws in reaching the conclusion that “the states with the most gun laws” have “the fewest gun-related deaths” while “states with few­er reg­u­la­tions typ­ic­ally have a much high­er death rate from guns.”

The National Journal disproportionately excluded low-crime, pro-gun states such as Vermont, South Dakota, and Maine from its chart of homicide rates precisely because their homicide rate was low. These states have few gun laws (Vermont has the least of any state) and very low homicide rates. If you disproportionately exclude unregulated states that are safest from the calculation of which states have the lowest homicide rates, that will create the false impression that states with the most gun laws have the fewest gun deaths.
These “pro-gun” states have low homicide rates (for example, Vermont had the third lowest homicide rate in 2013, the lowest gun murder rate in 2010, and the second-lowest gun murder rate in 2007-2010. South Dakota had the fourth-lowest gun-homicide rate in 2007-2010).
But in its discussions of “Concealed Carry” and “Background Checks,” the National Journal deletes these states from its charts comparing pro-gun and anti-gun states by “Gun-related homicides per 100,000 people, by state (2013).” It deletes Vermont, South Dakota, Maine, and 8 other states (6 of which have few gun regulations) from each chart, claiming that these states had “too few homicides to calculate a reliable rate.” 9 of the 11 states excluded broadly allow concealed carry and do not impose additional background-check requirements beyond those contained in federal law. But the National Journal deliberately excluded those states, writing, “In 2013, Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming had too few homicides to calculate a reliable rate.”
It is truly bizarre to exclude the states with the fewest gun deaths from an article about what states have “the fewest gun deaths.” This is an egregious act of cherry-picking.
But that was apparently how the National Journal managed to claim that “the states that im­pose the most re­stric­tions on gun users also have the low­est rates of gun-re­lated deaths, while states with few­er reg­u­la­tions typ­ic­ally have a much high­er death rate from guns.” (In 2013, the state with the nation’s lowest murder rate and lowest rate of gun-related homicides was Iowa, which is middling in terms of the number of gun laws. In 2007-2010, it ranked fifth-lowest in number of gun-related homicides. It does not have the “most gun laws.” It broadly permits concealed carry but also requires certain background checks. For some reason, the National Journal left Iowa in, while excluding other low-homicide, low-crime states like Vermont that have even fewer gun laws.).

The “pro-gun” states that consistently have higher “gun-related homicide” rates – such as Louisiana and South Carolina — have higher violent crime rates of all kinds, not just homicides or gun-related homicides. So it does not appear to be related to their gun laws. (For example, Louisiana and South Carolina have higher rates of non-gun-related homicide as well).
Other “pro-gun” states that have higher-than-average “gun-related deaths” than average – like Idaho and Wyoming – do not have high homicide rates, but rather higher use of guns in suicide. But suicide is not what people think of when a politician claims that guns kill people. Moreover, using a gun is not the easiest way to commit suicide, and “gun-related” suicides do not necessarily add much to the number of suicides, since in the absence of guns, many people will still commit suicide.


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