Cherry-picking their data

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(A version of this column appears in the Jan. 10 edition of Firearms News (previously “Shotgun News.”)

In case you didn’t notice, the website “Before It’s News” reported back in October that an Air Force veteran with a concealed-carry license “was told to stand down when he offered to help” during a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

John Parker, 36, was at the veterans’ center at the college when he heard about the shooting, which was occurring 200 yards from his location.

He told Fox News’ Sean Hannity “There were a few people in the vet center. . . . When we heard the shooting happened, we got up and we were gonna go out and see what we could do.” He added: “Immediately the school staff stopped us and told us to get inside of the building. . . . Essentially the staff wouldn’t let us go to assist.”

Police later swept the campus buildings. “I told the officer about the gun on my hip,” Parker told the Huffington Post. “He searched me, took the gun, escorted me back to my car and gave me my gun back and told me to have a nice day.”

Ten people including the shooter were killed and nine others wounded by a gunman who had been discharged from the Army in 2008 after a suicide attempt. The gunman went from building to building on the picturesque college campus, reloading without interference, asking Christians to stand up so he could kill them. The shooter finally took his own life moments after being wounded by police — police who, in responding, themselves violated the college’s “no guns” policy.

In asserting his right to concealed carry, Air Force veteran Parker was knowingly violating a rule which declared the college a “gun-free zone.”

How “gun free”? A post on the college website made it clear that even water pistols were banned on campus.

Gee, that sure helped.

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‘Clamp down on the availability . . .’

Meantime, also back in October, I hope everyone noticed Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said it’s “worth considering” a nationwide gun ban and “buyback” program to vastly reduce private gun ownership.

At an Oct. 16 “town hall meeting” in Keene, N.H. (a lot more carefully staged and with attendance a lot more strictly limited than at any real New England “town meeting,” of course) she was asked if it were feasible for the U.S. to confiscate millions of private firearms.

Mrs. Clinton responded: “You know, Australia’s a good example, Canada’s a good example, the UK’s a good example. Why? Because each of them had mass killings, Australia had a huge mass killing about 20 or 25 years ago. Canada did as well, so did the UK. In reaction, they passed much stricter gun laws.

“In the Australian example, as I recall, that was a buyback program. The Australian government as part of trying to clamp down on the availability of . . . weapons offered a good price for buying hundreds of thousands of guns and basically clamped down going forward. . . .

Clinton mentioned several U.S. cities have tried gun buyback programs and it would be “worth considering on a national level.”

Somehow, she curiously failed to demand that any of her own Secret Service bodyguards come up to the podium and turn in their weapons, “just to set a good example.”

Gun-grabbing countries with higher murder rates

But one of the most hopeful signs I’ve seen recently was a post by Ryan McMaken — editor of “Mises Daily” and former economist for the Colorado Division of Housing — at www.lewrockwell.com/2015/10/ryan-mcmaken/gun-lies/ .

The piece deals with the way collectivist opponents of the right to keep and bear arms — even at supposedly objective newspapers — manipulate their data to make it appear the United States has much higher firearm murder rates than countries with more repressive “gun control” laws.

“We’ve all seen it many times,” Mr. McMaken notes. “The United States, with a murder rate of approximately 5 per 100,000, is compared to a variety of Western and Central European countries (also sometimes Japan) with murder rates often below 1 per 100,000. This is, in turn, supposed to fill Americans with a sense of shame and illustrate that the United States should be regarded as some sort of pariah nation because of its murder rate. . . .

“Note, however, that these comparisons always employ a carefully selected list of countries, most of which are very unlike the United States. They are countries that were settled long ago by the dominant ethnic group, they are ethnically non-diverse today, they are frequently very small countries (such as Norway, with a population of 5 million.) . . . Politically, historically, and demographically, the U.S. has little in common with Europe or Japan.”

So with whom should we be compared?

“What is the criteria for deciding that the United States shall be compared to Luxembourg but not to Mexico, which has far more in common with the U.S. than Luxembourg in terms of size, history, ethnic diversity, and geography?”

Much of this stems from outdated, preconceived notions about the “Third World,” McMaken says, assuming “we” are the special “developed” countries where people are happy healthy and live long lives, while “they” are the Third World “where people live in war-torn squalor and lives there are nasty, brutish, and short.”

In fact, there is no such sharp dividing line, the author argues. If instead we were allowed to compare the U.S. to middle-income countries like Uruguay, Russia, or Mexico, that would show the U.S. “is actually a remarkably safe place in global terms — on top of having many more legally owned guns than those countries.”

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Mr. McMaken cites a 2012 Washington Post story by Max Fisher headlined “Chart: The U.S. has far more gun-related killings than any other developed country.”

To the usual sample of “developed” countries which are currently between genocides (like Germany and Japan) Mr. Fisher “proceeds to add a few non-traditional comparisons to drive home the point as to how violent the US truly is, in his view.”

Specifically, Mr. Fisher adds Bulgaria, Turkey, and Chile. He still ends with a chart showing the U.S. with by far the most “firearm homicides per 100,000 people.”

Why Turkey and Chile and Bulgaria? Apparently because they’re members of the OECD. “But if you’re familiar with the OECD, you’ll immediately notice a problem with the list Fisher uses,” McMaken points out. “Mexico is an OECD country. So why is Mexico not in this graph?” Clearly, Mexico is excluded because its higher murder rate would mess up the pre-determined result, which is that the United States always has to come our “worst.”

Breaking out ‘state’ murder rates

At the time, Mr. Fisher explained his omission was because Mexico “has about triple the U.S. rate due in large part to the ongoing drug war.”

“Oh, so every country that has drug war deaths is exempt? Well, then I guess we have to remove the U.S. from the list,” Mr. McMaken smiles.

Why not use the U.N.’s human development index to choose comparison countries, McMaken asks? The Bahamas, Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Panama, Uruguay, Venezuela, Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia, and Latvia have HDI numbers equal to or greater than those of Turkey and Mexico.

But if we include those, we find the picture for the United States murder rate looks very different, of course.

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Mr. McMaken proceeds to offer a chart showing that — while the U.S. has a higher murder rate than Canada or Bulgaria — its murder rate is about half that of Russia’s, less than half as high as those of Panama and Mexico, and a minuscule 10 percent of the murder rate in Venezuela -– all ethnically diverse countries settled around the same time as the U.S.

And things get even more interesting if we separate out American states with low murder rates, he points out.

“Why not include data from individual states? It has always been extremely imprecise and lazy to talk about the ‘U.S. murder rate’ The U.S. is an immense country with a lot of variety in laws and demographics. . . . The U.S. murder rate is being driven up by a few high-murder states such as Maryland, Louisiana, South Carolina, Delaware, and Tennessee. In the spirit of selective use of data, let’s just leave those states out, and look at some of the low-crime ones.”

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His result, of course, shows that murder rates in states like New Hampshire, Idaho, North Dakota, Wyoming and Utah — precisely those states with the most “lax” gun laws and the highest rates of peaceful citizens actually walking around with guns — are among the lowest in the world.

“We see that OECD members Chile and Turkey have murder rates higher than Colorado,” Mr. McMaken notes. “Perhaps they should try adopting Colorado’s laws and allow sale of handguns and semi-automatic rifles to all non-felon adults. That might help them bring their murder rates down a little.”

Bookmark Mr. McMaken’s well-researched work. It’s time to stop the gun-grabbers from corrupting our public debate with misleading, cherry-picked data.

A version of this column appears in the January, 2016 issue of “Firearms News” (previously “Shotgun News.”)

4 Comments to “Cherry-picking their data”

  1. vardis Says:

    they will never admit this is closer to the truth of the matter then the carefully concocted story line that they foist on the subservient class , alas if only the truth were told ,but that cant be allowed , we certainly live in interesting times , i fear they will shortly get more interesting as 2016 progresses
    thanks Vin

  2. Darren Says:

    The same “out of touch” with reality was demonstrated by Mrs. Clinton during the last Marx Brothers comedy show (Democrat Debate), and later parroted by the New York Times Editorial Board article, “The Republican Fear of Facts on Guns.”

    Here, they tout the “nation’s epidemic of gun violence,” while simultaneously ignoring the actual hard data. Violent crime with guns has dropped 75% since 1993, gun homicides are down 49% for the same time period. Meanwhile, firearms ownership has been going through the stratosphere with record sales. Mrs. Clinton calls out the ready number of 33,000 gun deaths per year, (they need big numbers) but conveniently overlooks the fact that one third of those are homicides committed by those engaged in our nations drug war.

    But what about the 40,000 traffic deaths per year? More people are killed by drunk driving than guns, yet I don’t hear the outcry to equip every new vehicle with a BAC inhibiter.

    The fact is, these civil rights prohibitionists have zero interest in saving lives, other than their own.

  3. Russell Greenidge Says:

    This is an xcellent article Sir. I should note that one musn’t forget Vermont, which currently has the lowest rate of violent crime, and has had permitless concealed carry for its entire history. Sincerely, RG

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