Chris Murphy's surface-level "evidence" on guns misleading

AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib

Sen. Chris Murphy isn’t exactly on pace to give the keynote address at a future NRA annual meeting. We all know that and none of us are shocked by most anti-gun things he says.


In fact, when he says something that isn’t blatantly hoplophobic, it makes headlines.

And I know Twitter isn’t exactly the best place for a reasoned, nuanced debate. The character limit that everyone without a blue checkmark runs into is part of that and the other is that a lot of people don’t read the longer, premium tweets, making it a bad place for discussion.

At least on some topics.

That said, Murphy never fails to post something anti-gun on the platform, and Tuesday was no exception.

The Connecticut Democrat tweeted this:

So, basically, it’s the same old argument of “more guns = more gun deaths” we’ve heard but with visual aids.

We’ve all heard the numbers before, and while it’s presented in a slightly different way, we’re still not shocked by this.

What this tweet and graph and literally every other effort to use this information are failing to discuss is anything beyond the surface-level look.

And Murphy has to understand this concept because he does it all the time with other issues. We all do.


Where most of us, myself included, tend to screw up is that we don’t look any deeper when it’s telling us what we want to hear, such as this “gun deaths” data.

To look deeper, we have to start by understanding what “gun deaths” means.

For many, this term equates to homicides. The problem is that the vast majority of these are suicides, which is where we start to run into problems.

See, take a look at some of those states on the right side of the picture. Wyoming? Alaska? Montana? Idaho?

These aren’t high-crime states by any stretch of the imagination. They’re very rural states with relatively low crime.

What they also have are fairly high suicide rates.

“But gun control can combat suicide,” some advocates will tell you, but even in the best-case scenario, it’s limited in what it can accomplish in that regard. Many of the folks in those states have had their guns for years before they ever consider taking their life.

So while they have a lot of guns, new gun control laws aren’t likely to change much of anything.

Yet, to be fair and accurate, some of those other states on that end do have high crime rates. Louisiana, Mississippi, and others.


Even there, though, Murphy’s point overlooks a lot of other variables that aren’t being accounted for in such a simple, surface-level view.

Economics, for example. Education. Mental health resources. All of these things can and do impact violent crime rates which, in turn, can impact homicide rates.

So even when the graph does seem to have more of a focus on crime–by accident, mind you–it doesn’t tell you the whole story.

Besides, we’ve seen increased gun sales year over year since the NICS numbers first started coming in. During that time, we also saw crime drop year over year.

It’s only been in the last few years that we’ve seen any kind of change, and let’s be real here. There’s been an awful lot of other stuff going on as well.

So while Murphy may present a tweet like this and think he’s presenting an open and shut case, the reality is quite different.

What’s more, is that I think on some level, he knows it.

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