Republican and Democratic Lawmakers Get Facts Wrong on Gun Policy
President Trump discussed potential solutions to curb gun violence on Wednesday during a televised meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
The president strayed from the facts during his remarks, as The New York Times reported previously. Here is a look at the claims made during the session by other lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats — that may have strayed from the facts or otherwise require some additional context.
“This is when the 10-year assault weapon ban was in — how incidents and deaths dropped. When it ended, you see it going up.” — Senator Dianne Feinstein.
This needs context.
In the past, Ms. Feinstein has referenced an analysis by Louis Klarevas, a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Boston, that found the assault weapons ban drastically reduced gun massacres.
But it’s difficult to directly link declines in crime or gun violence to any specific law, given the limited scope and loopholes in each one, according to most experts and research.
As The Times has previously reported:
The 1994 ban on assault weapons has become a particular and recent subject of intense debate. The N.R.A. has cited a 2004 analysis funded by the Justice Department to argue that the “ban could not be credited with any reduction in crime.”
On the other hand, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, has claimed in a Twitter post that “the number of gun massacres fell by 37%” while the ban was in place.
Christopher Koper, a professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and the lead author of the study that is cited by the N.R.A., has repeatedly said that the ban had mixed effects and final results would not be immediately evident.
“My work is often cited in misleading ways that don’t give the full picture,” Mr. Koper said Thursday in an email. “These laws can modestly reduce shootings overall” and reduce the number and severity of mass shootings.
“These shooters typically are males. They’re white and they’re suicidal.” — Senator Steve Daines, Republican of Montana
A database maintained by Mother Jones, a progressive magazine, shows that 95 out of 97 mass shootings from 1982 to 2018 involved male gunmen. Fifty-five were committed by white men.
“The states that have these background checks, they have a 38 percent lower domestic homicide rate — this is domestic violence.” — Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota
Causation is not clear.
Ms. Klobuchar is probably referring to a report from Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, that claims “38 percent fewer women” are “shot to death by intimate partners” in states that require background checks for all handgun sales.
This analysis, however, does not account for other factors that contribute to domestic violence, leading other researchers to question the sweeping conclusion about background checks.
April Zeoli, a professor at Michigan State University who studies intimate partner violence, called the Everytown estimate a “back of the napkin” calculation.
Ms. Zeoli’s research has found that state laws restricting access to firearms for people who have been convicted of domestic violence result in declines in intimate partner homicides; specifically, 11 percent from laws that mandate buyers to get a permit whether they’re purchasing from licensed or private dealers, she said. (Other research also shows this.)
Unlike Everytown, Ms. Zeoli also looked at state domestic violence laws, poverty and divorce rates, average amounts of public assistance, educational attainment gaps between men and women, homicides not related to domestic violence, percentage of suicides by firearms as a proxy for gun ownership rates and law enforcement availability.
“Those are areas where there are no guns. The reason I carry a concealed firearm everywhere I go is because I don’t know where those gun-free zones are, that I may walking through at the mall, or at the doughnut shop, or wherever I might be.” — Representative John Rutherford, Republican of Florida
This needs context.
As Mr. Rutherford and Mr. Trump discussed concealed-carry laws, Mr. Trump said, “You’re not allowed concealed in a gun-free zone.” The exchange highlights how amorphous the term “gun-free zone” has become.
Federal law prohibits firearms in grade schools, but makes explicit exceptions for security personnel and instructional purposes (hunting classes, for example). So, Mr. Rutherford is wrong to state that there are never guns in “gun-free zones.”
Furthermore, at least eight states allow concealed carry for teachers at grade schools, and two others have eased restrictions, according to the Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy group.
Private businesses may also ban civilian use of firearms on their premises, but state laws vary on how and on the extent to which a business can opt out.
Texas has very specific requirements for the signs businesses put up to indicate that they do not allow firearms on their properties. (For example, they must be in both English and Spanish.) North Carolina requires signs to be “conspicuous,” while Florida has no explicit rules. Florida is one of 23 states that require business owners to allow guns in cars parked on company property.
“People just want to dismiss concealed-carry permits. They do actually increase safety.” — Representative Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana
This is disputed.
When asked what data Mr. Scalise was referring to, a spokesman told The Times, “Since the early ’90s, the significant increase in the issuance of concealed-carry permits by states has been accompanied by a significant drop in violent crime rates — and that includes millions of new permits being issued in the last decade or so.”
The spokesman cited the work of John R. Lott Jr., an economist and gun rights advocate whose book “More Guns, Less Crime” makes the case that “passing concealed-handgun laws deters violent crime.” But Mr. Lott’s findings have been questioned by other academics.
In 2005, a panel at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that “no link between right-to-carry laws and changes in crime is apparent in the raw data, even in the initial sample.”
Other researchers have reached an opposite conclusion. In a 2017 study, John Donohue, a professor at Stanford Law School, found that states that adopted right-to-carry laws saw an increase in violent crime.