AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Politicians like to throw out numbers, especially when they’re trying to make a point. It doesn’t necessarily matter if the numbers are correct, just so long as they’re big numbers.
The ballpark of a million is a good one. It’s sufficiently huge to be shocking, but small enough that in our nation it’s entirely possible that you’ll know absolutely no one it applies to. For example:
Nearly 1 million women in the U.S. alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner. We’ve had too many tragedies for addressing gun violence to not be a priority. https://t.co/VTABuluSZn
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 24, 2019
But have they? National Review‘s Rober Verbruggen took a look. Here’s what he has to say on the topic:
The claim appears to come from this literature review, whose abstract indeed says that “the number of U.S. women alive today who have had an intimate partner use a gun against them is substantial: About 4.5 million have had an intimate partner threaten them with a gun and nearly 1 million have been shot or shot at by an intimate partner.”
But then I dug a little deeper. The review looks at a lot of different surveys, but most of them are of battered women only, or ask only about recent incidents. Only one survey — conducted in the mid 1990s and reported in 2000 — asked a representative sample about incidents covering their whole lives.
And that survey didn’t ask whether the women had been shot or shot at; it asked if anyone had “use[d] a gun” on them. Incredibly, the literature review itself notes the difference between this and being shot at: “Gun use — which was not defined in most studies and, therefore, might include gun threats as well as being pistol whipped and being shot at or shot — against an intimate partner was low in the general population (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).”
As it turns out, “Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000” is precisely the source of the 1 million claim: 0.7 percent of women in the survey said an intimate partner had “use[d] a gun on” them, which the authors of the literature review then multiplied by census numbers to arrive at a raw number (even though crime has fallen substantially since the 1990s). An earlier question in that survey asks if the respondent has been “threatened” with a gun, so this likely doesn’t include very many mere threats. But it does not suggest that this many women were “shot or shot at,” just that a gun was “used” in some way.
I agree. The phrase “use[d] a gun on” them is sufficiently vague enough that it can cover a wide variety of abuses. While undoubtedly many of those women were shot, many others may have been shot at, beaten with the gun, or other such things. I think Verbruggen is being generous, but not overly so, by assuming these women wouldn’t be counting meer threats as a gun being used on them.
The Harris campaign, however, didn’t dig any deeper. They didn’t want to. They saw a big number, one that would shock a lot of people, and latched hold of it. There was no critical thinking involved.
After all, this upholds Harris’ biases. She’s convinced that American women are under constant threat from the men in their lives, that there’s an epidemic of women being shot by the men in their lives and that they need Kamala Harris and gun control to be safe again.
Nevermind that gun control will likely hurt these women’s ability to defend themselves. Harris and her ilk resoundingly reject that aspect of reality. They want the guns. They want our guns, and they want to hurt our ability to buy guns in the future, and they’ll use any numbers they can find to do it.