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Don’t bring cherry-picked data to a gun fight.

If there’s one thing all who propose strong gun restriction laws should realize, it’s that 2nd Amendment supporters know their stuff, and we’re not afraid to call you out on misinformation.

In a Newsweek opinion article masquerading as a news, a Boston University professor and a BU researcher argued for stricter gun control laws by using a new public database they created regarding state firearm laws. While the database itself is quite interesting, their arguments, presented with fancy diagrams and statistics about rising gun death rates, became low-hanging fodder for 2nd Amendment supporters within hours of its publication.

Readers quickly picked up on problems with the “study”, most specifically that the authors were not taking into consideration historical trends and instead merely considering data that filled their pre-formed opinions towards guns. The ensuing comments on Newsweek alone are worth reading.

The first sentence of the article states:

“From 2014 to 2015, the United States experienced its largest annual increase in firearm deaths over the past 35 years, a 7.8 percent upturn in a single year.”

Scary, right? Only if you’re intentionally avoiding data that doesn’t fit into your worldview. This “upturn in a single year” doesn’t take into account the years that firearms deaths dropped or the years that they steadily increased. According to The Conservative Firing Line,

It is true that the number of homicides did go up in 2015 (9,616) from the previous year (8,124), but those figures are below the 10,225 logged in 2006, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report. A further check of FBI data, all the way back to 1996 – which was not 35 years ago – showed there were 11,453 gun-related homicides in 1996, followed in 1997 by 10,729 gun homicides, 9,257 slayings in 1998 and 8,480 firearms-involved murders in 1999.

It’s a numbers game, and the numbers bounce up and down.

The misinformation continued from there to show how the authors firmly believe that closing the “gun show loophole” will effectively end crime. There’s only one small problem with that:

  • 39.6% of criminals obtained a gun from a friend or family member
  • 39.2% of criminals obtained a gun on the street or from an illegal source
  • 8.3% of criminals actually bought their guns from retail outlets
  • 3.8% of criminals purchased a gun from a pawn shop
  • 1% of criminals purchased a gun at a flea market
  • 0.7% of criminals purchased a gun at a gun show

Based on the facts, their “loophole” looks a bit more like a speck now, doesn’t it? 78.8% of criminals admit they either obtained the gun illegally or from a friend or family member.

The authors then came around to states that have “stand your ground” laws, chastising them by stating,

States are increasingly enacting laws that allow people to shoot other people as a first resort in public, instead of retreating when threatened. If a person perceives a threat of serious bodily harm, so-called “stand your ground” laws allow them to fire their gun with immunity from prosecution, as long as they are in a place they have a legal right to be.

This is a gross over-simplification of what “stand your ground” laws actually allow, which is not a free pass to shoot any “perceived” threat. Like everything in life, actions have consequences. “Stand your ground” laws allow individuals to protect themselves without having to deal with the life-changing consequences that may otherwise come with protecting oneself against deadly force, not just the “perception” of it.

As commenter David P. Johnson told Newsweek:

Have you ever tried to run away from someone without turning your back on them? Do you really want to turn your back on someone threatening you? And face it, not everyone can run. Old people, handicapped people, etc can not run. But that is what those opposed to “stand your ground” want you to do.

Though the anti-gun bias that runs through this article is laughably apparent, there are two good things that can be gleaned from it:

  1. The database itself, if correctly interpreted, could actually be used to show the benefits of legally-owned firearms
  2. The comments left by astute 2nd Amendment supporters are pure gold and show that 2nd Amendment supporters are some of the most well-informed individuals out there

It is imperative that we 2nd Amendment supporters continue to make our voices heard when misleading articles, such as this one, are presented to an increasingly ignorant crowd.