A while back, a lot of the media surrounding the Second Amendment actually dealt with a graduation hoax. I covered it at the time, of course. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t a fan of the tactic.
One of the targets of the hoax was Dr. John Lott.
Recently, he took issue with the hoax. Not because it was an attempt to make him look bad, but because they used fake facts to try and make their point.
The fake high school and the deceptive editing of my speech weren’t the only falsehoods here. A gun control organization called “Change the Ref” hoodwinked news outlets worldwide to propagate a lie about how extensive gun violence is in the United States.
The videos made from this address focus on the “lost class.” Specifically, “they are the 3,044 graduating high school seniors that died from gun violence,” according to Change the Ref. These dead students were represented by the vast sea of 3,044 empty chairs that the group had me give my “dress rehearsal” talk in front of.
It is a claim that received unquestioning national (e.g., USA Today, MSNBC, CNN, Washington Post) and international (e.g., The Guardian [UK], Stern [Germany], SBS News [Australia]) news coverage parroting this figure, even running the number in their headlines. But it is a number that isn’t even remotely close to the truth.
About 3.7 million students were expected to graduate from high school during the 2020-21 school year. But 3,000 of them were not killed with firearms. In this country there are 4.1 million 17-year-olds. Yet, Centers for Disease Control statistics show that in 2019 (the last year for which data is available), 17-year-olds were the victims of 337 homicides, 18 accidental deaths, and 193 suicides. That’s a total of 548 gun deaths — about one-sixth the number cited by Change the Ref.
But even these numbers are inflated. Homicides include justifiable homicides, such as when a victim shoots a 17-year-old robber or rapist or person intent on murdering them. That death shouldn’t be in the same category as school shooting fatalities. Gang-related violence is the biggest source of murders for this age group. Those lives surely count, but it’s misleading to simply describe them as otherwise “graduating high school seniors.”
That’s quite a bit different than 3,044 people.
Lott goes on to note that if you look across the board at people under the age of 18–not just people who would have been graduating, but all people under 18–you’re still only looking at fewer than 1,700 deaths.
Yes, every single one of those is tragic, but that’s not a topic for debate. We’re talking about scale here.
Worse, though, is that Lott pointed this out to numerous reporters yet only one actually questioned Change the Ref’s claim. Just one. That’s a big problem, to say the least, especially when you already know they’re inclined to lie in order to advance their agenda. How else did this hoax happen?
Now, is it possible they can back up their claim? Like they looked at the total number of people in all time who were killed that would have graduated in 2021? I mean, sure. In fact, that’s what I kind of thought they did. Yet because they haven’t had to defend their claims, we don’t really know. They’re simply asserting a number and the media isn’t questioning it. We simply don’t know and we should.
Lott has challenged them about this number on Twitter but to no avail. He argues that because the media isn’t involved, they simply don’t care, and I don’t think he’s wrong.
When it was just about trying to embarrass pro-gun figures, it was bad enough. But they either fabricated their numbers or are simply refusing to share how they reached that conclusion, which suggests to me that they are indeed fabricated. What else can you expect from people who lied once to pull off a politically-motivated hoax?
Shocking, I know.