Bloomberg's claims on gun control fail to match the facts

Bloomberg's claims on gun control fail to match the facts
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Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety “is most famous for its running tally of school shootings,” according to the Washington Post. When Everytown tweeted out the claim that there had been 18 school shootings so far this year as of Feb. 14 — immediately after the Florida high school attack — the claim spread like wildfire. News organizations — including ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, NPR, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, Politico, Time, MSN, the BBC, the New York Daily News and HuffPost — noted the statistic in their news reports or hosted experts who cited the number.

Bloomberg’s gun control groups should have lost all credibility by now. But it hardly seems that there would be much of a gun control debate these days without the many hundreds of millions of dollars that Bloomberg has spent fighting this issue.

The Wall Street Journal published a detailed expose before the Florida shooting, when it debunked Everytown’s claim that there had been 11 school shootings just in the first 25 days of the year. Among these “school shootings”: “A school-bus window was broken by a pellet gun in Forest City, Iowa,” and “A gun was accidentally discharged in a weapons class at a Denison, Texas, community college.”

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Another shooting involved a military veteran with no connection to the school killing himself in his car while in the school parking lot. The list later included more suicides and a police officer who accidentally discharged his gun.

 

The Washington Post blasted Everytown’s “18 school shootings” claim in a Feb. 15 review: “That number is flat wrong.” The liberal-leaning Politifact concluded: “Only three of those incidents, including Florida, involved multiple gunshots inside of a school that caused deaths or an injury.” Only two of the three cases involved fatalities. Politifact also noted that Everytown included cases of guns being fired “near a school.” this includes cases not even on the school campus?

Still, even after all of these fact checks, the New York Times could only bring itself to write: “As other outlets, including The Washington Post, have pointed out, that statistic included a suicide at a closed school and an incident when gunshots were fired in a high school parking lot but no one was injured.” Thus, the Times made it appear that Everytown had made only two mistakes, one of them appeared minor.

But this is hardly the first time that Bloomberg’s counts have been labeled as false, and it doesn’t seem to matter. When Everytown reported that there had been 74 school shootings between Sandy Hook (Dec. 14, 2012) and June 2014, Politifact found the claim to be “mostly false.” CNN re-did the numbers and found that a the more correct total was 15, but that was still generous.

A Fox News piece that we wrote early in 2014 was the first to point out the errors. It showed that Bloomberg’s two predecessor organizations to Everytown — Moms Demand Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns — included such cases as a college student using a gun stop himself from being beaten as a school shooting.

Bloomberg’s various gun control groups release one report after another that are at least as untruthful as their numbers on school shootings.

His perennial favorite gun control measure is background checks on private gun transfers. Everytown purports to have evidence showing that these background checks reduce domestic violence against women by 47 percent, suicides by 47 percent, and shootings of police by 53 percent. But Everytown has never actually examined how crime rates change before and after the measure is adopted. Instead, Bloomberg's group compares states, with no attempt to account for anything other than their differing background check laws.

When states have adopted these background checks, they have experienced a 15 percent increase in per capita rates of mass public shooting fatalities. They have also seen a 38 percent increase in the rate of injury from these attacks. There is no evidence that the expanded background checks reduce rates of any type of violent crime as well as mass public shootings, suicide, murder of police officers, and domestic violence against women. Other academic research by economists and criminologists consistently confirms this.

Had Everytown applied its same statistical methods to other crimes, they would have found that expanded background checks were associated with more mass public shooting deaths and higher rates of murder, robbery and aggravated assault. Clearly, Everytown only applied its methods when expedient to its agenda.

There isn't space here to delve into all of the false claims made by Bloomberg’s groups. They’ve made false claims about crime by concealed handgun permit holders, alleged that “84% of female firearm homicides in 25 countries are in [the] US,” and cherry-picked polls claiming that 80 or 90 percent of Americans support background checks on private transfers of guns. This last claim is belied by how people actual vote on ballot initiatives to impose such background checks. Bloomberg has spent vast sums of money on the initiatives, and they still have lost or won by less than one percentage point.

As if spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars producing this false information wasn’t enough, Bloomberg has set up a “news” organization whose only mission is to write on gun issues from his perspective. “The Trace” is as much of a news organization as Everytown, and other media outlets such as the New York Times and Washington Post regularly pick up its stories.

When the fact checks are eventually done, major media organizations don't bother to issue corrections. Nor do politicians bother to issue corrections to their speeches. Bloomberg-funded research showed up frequently in President Obama’s speeches calling for gun control.

Michael Bloomberg’s groups show one thing: a consistent willingness to do whatever is necessary to get the desired results, even if it means making up data. Disappointingly, the news media keeps giving Bloomberg-funded research massive, uncritical coverage.

John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author more recently of “The War on Guns” (Regnery, 2016).