Lashing out at New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the influential work the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which he co-chairs, does in trying to combat gun violence, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs inadvertently helped prove Bloomberg's point about the nature of gun violence in America. Dobbs thought he was debunking Bloomberg's work by pointing out how, proportionately, relatively few murders are committed with assault weapons in America. But all Dobbs did was help highlight the thousands who die each year from gunfire and punctuate Bloomberg's call for drastic reform.
On June 9, Dobbs hosted a "Chalk Talk" segment and tried to illustrate the futility of Mayors Against Illegal Guns advocacy work. Dobbs denounced the group for allegedly trying to curb Second Amendment rights and said the organization should really be called Mayors for Gun Control, or "more specifically, Mayors For An Assault Weapons Ban." The host then went on to detail how an assault weapons ban "focuses on a small number of fire arms that are, in fact, rarely used in the committing of crimes."
Citing FBI statistics for 2011, the most recent numbers available, Dobbs mapped on out his chalkboard the fact that more than 6,000 people were murdered that year from handguns (nearly 8,500 total from all firearms), but that "only 323" murders were committed by "rifles, including so-called assault weapons." He highlighted that in comparison to the 323 figure, more American were killed in 2011 by knives and blunt instruments.
For Dobbs, the numbers confirmed that Mayors Against Illegal Guns' obsession with banning assault weapons ban was misguided. In truth, Dobbs played loose with the FBI statistics. And his claim that Bloomberg's gun advocacy work revolves almost exclusively around banning assault weapons is transparently false.
First the figures.
Dobbs insists "only 323" murders were committed by assault weapons in 2011. But he doesn't know that to be true and neither does the FBI. In its annual crime tally, the FBI does not include a category for assault weapons. Dobbs just assumes they fall under the "rifle" grouping used by the FBI.
From FactCheck.org [emphasis added]:
Christopher Koper, a gun violence expert who teaches criminology at George Mason University, told us "there isn't a good estimate as to the number of people killed each year by assault weapons." He said the national databases used to track murders "don't have detailed information on the particular gun models that are used in homicides."
In fact, depending on how an assault weapon is defined, some of the murders listed as handgun crimes by the FBI could have been committed by assault weapons, as Vance McLaughlin, a criminal justice professor at Jacksonville State University in Alabama recently explained to Politifact.
And note that in 2011 the FBI reported that more than 1,500 firearm homicides were committed by guns whose types were unknown or "not stated." Assault weapons certainly could have been used in a portion of those murders. Moreover, FBI data are incomplete - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported roughly 11,000 firearms homicides in 2010, about 20 percent more than the FBI tally for that year.
And by the way, nearly one-in-five policemen killed in America is gunned down by an assault weapon. But Dobbs' "Chalk Talk" segment made sure to imply that assault weapons crimes didn't amount to much, which means Bloomberg's advocacy is misplaced.
But of course contrary to Dobbs' claim, Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns isn't singularly focused with trying to ban assault weapons. (The group has not called for trying to ban handguns.) While the group urges Congress to improve on the country's previous assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, they only adopted that position over the past year. Instead, the group has long embraced a wide-ranging anti-gun violence agenda.
Bloomberg has been making headlines this year as he and the group he co-founded lobbied members of Congress to pass the bipartisan background check bill in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, CT. The group has spent years pushing for such legislation.
The MAIG agenda also includes stopping terror suspects from being able to buy guns, as well as fending off attempts in Congress to tie the hands of the ATF from prosecuting gun dealers who break the law and criminals who buy and sell illegal guns.
The fact is, more than 8,000 Americans were murdered by firearms in 2011. Yes, that number has been declining in recent years but it's still staggeringly out of proportion with other developed nations. By highlighting how large the number is, in his wayward attempt to criticize Bloomberg, Dobbs simply helped illustrate the scope of the gun violence problem in American. And that's what Mayors Against Illegal Guns is all about it.
- Lou Dobbs