Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano and co-host Brian Kilmeade hyped conservative myths about guns to disparage Hillary Clinton's proposals to curb gun violence. Fox ignored the fact that there are major differences between assault weapons and other firearms, that background checks are effective in keeping guns out of the hands of those who should not have them, that higher gun ownership leads to more violence and crime, and that most mass shootings do not occur exclusively in so-called “gun free zones.”
Hillary Clinton Introduces Proposals To Curb Gun Violence
Clinton Proposes Gun Reforms, Including Background Checks And Closing Loopholes. In the wake of a mass shooting at an Oregon community college, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton presented proposals to curb gun violence. The proposals include closing gun sale and transfer loopholes, performing background checks, and subjecting individuals that sell large amounts of firearms to the same regulations as firearms dealers:
The proposals will come just days after Mrs. Clinton said she wanted to lead a “national movement” to counter the National Rifle Association, after another mass shooting, this time at a college in Oregon, left nine people dead. Mrs. Clinton has made gun control a constant in her campaign speeches since the Charleston, S.C., shootings in which nine black congregants were killed.
A central issue in Mrs. Clinton's proposals are the background checks on prospective gun buyers, which are required for retailers at stores. But under federal law, they are not required at gun shows or over the Internet with private sellers.
Under Mrs. Clinton's plan, she would use administrative powers to make anyone selling a substantial number of guns declared “in the business” of firearms dealing, and subject to the same rules as retailers, if Congress does not act, according to the campaign aide.
Mrs. Clinton will suggest urging Congress to end another loophole, by which people with felony records who should be barred from obtaining a gun can get one if their background check is not completed within three days. That loophole was how Dylann Roof, the accused killer in Charleston, obtained his weapon despite a felony conviction for a drug arrest. [The New York Times, 10/5/15]
Fox News Hypes Myths About Guns While Discussing Clinton's Proposals
MYTH: There's No Big Difference Between An Assault Weapon And A Non-Assault Weapon
Fox's Napolitano: “The Difference Between An Assault Weapon And A Non-Assault Weapon Is Some Plastic Stuff.” On the October 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that the only difference between an assault weapon and other firearms is “some plastic stuff on there” and that “it has nothing to do with the frequency with which bullets come out.” Napolitano stated that those on the left “don't even know what assault weapons are.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/6/15]
Violence Policy Center: Assault Weapons Are “Designed For Laying Down A High Volume Of Fire Over A Wide Killing Zone.” A June 2011 report from the Violence Policy Center described a trend in firearm manufacturing to militarize civilian firearms and stated that assault weapons are “designed for laying down a high volume of fire over a wide killing zone.” The report went on to describe other specific design features in assault weapons, which include high-capacity magazines and pistol grips that allow rapid accurate firing:
The world's armies developed assault weapons to meet specific combat needs. All assault weapons--military and civilian alike--incorporate specific features that were designed for laying down a high volume of fire over a wide killing zone. This is sometimes known as “hosing down” an area. Civilian assault weapons feature the specific military design features that make spray-firing easy and distinguish assault weapons from traditional sporting firearms.
The most important of these design features are --
§ High-capacity detachable ammunition magazines that hold as many as 75 rounds of ammunition.
§ A rear pistol grip (handle), including so-called “thumbhole stocks” and magazines that function like pistol grips.
§ A forward grip or barrel shroud. Forward grips (located under the barrel or the forward stock) give a shooter greater control over a weapon during firing. [Violence Policy Center, June 2011]
Mass Shootings Involving Assault Weapons Or High-Capacity Magazines Resulted In 51 Percent More Deaths Than Shootings With Other Types Of Guns. According to an August 2015 report issued by Everytown for Gun Safety, mass shootings in which the shooter used “high-capacity magazines -- or assault weapons likely equipped with them” had more than double the casualties of other incidents, and more than 50 percent additional fatalities:
[Everytown for Gun Safety, August 2015]
Johns Hopkins Center For Gun Policy And Research: “Mass Shootings Involving Assault Weapons Typically Involve More Victims Per Incident Than Mass Shootings With Other Weapons.” According to an October 2012 report from Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, because assault weapons are designed to hold high capacity ammunition magazines, they are disproportionately used by gunman in mass shootings and result in “more victims per incident” than shootings involving traditional firearms:
Not all firearms are created equal. One characteristic of guns that is relevant to public safety, particularly in regard to mass shootings, is ammunition capacity. Large capacity magazines (LCM), typically defined as holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, increase the number of rounds someone can fire without stopping to reload. An assault weapon is generally defined as a civilian version of a military style weapon. Assault weapons are typically capable of accepting LCMs.
Assault weapons and LCMs are common characteristics of guns discussed in policy debates because they are disproportionately used in mass shootings. Mass shootings involving assault weapons typically involve more victims per incident than mass shootings with other weapons. Recent examples of firearms with LCM being used in mass shootings include Jared Lee Loughner's use of a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol, with a magazine holding 33 rounds of ammunition, to murder 6 and wound 13 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in January 2011. The suspect in the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead and 58 injured used an assault rifle with a 100-round magazine. Weapons with LCMs were also used in the mass shootings at Virginia Tech University and Fort Hood, Texas. [Johns Hopkins University, Center for Gun Policy and Research, October 2012]
MYTH: Federal Background Checks Are Not Effective
Fox's Napolitano: A Federal Background Check “Is Not The Answer To This.” On Fox & Friends, Andrew Napolitano argued that the federally mandated background checks Hillary Clinton proposed for almost all gun buyers are not an answer to curbing gun violence. Napolitano claimed that since the shooters in Newtown, Connecticut and Roseberg, Oregon were both had mental health problems, a background check would not have stopped the massacres they perpetrated. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/6/15]
Everytown For Gun Safety: Background Checks Are Associated With Lower Levels Of Gun Violence. According to a January 2015 report by gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety, from 2008 through 2012 there were significantly “fewer intimate partner gun homicides” in states requiring background checks on all handgun sales:
Throughout the study period, 14 states and the District of Columbia required all gun buyers to undergo background checks before buying handguns in unlicensed sales, and 36 states did not. During that period, the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement recorded 911 gun homicides of women by current or former intimate partners in the former group of states, and 2,199 in the latter. Adjusting for population, there were 46 percent fewer intimate partner gun homicides of women in states that require background checks for all handgun sales than in states that do not. [Everytown for Gun Safety, 1/15/15]
Johns Hopkins Center For Gun Policy And Research: The Repeal Of Missouri's Background Check Law Contributed To An Increase The In Murder Rate. Researchers from the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University calculated that the repeal of Missouri's permit-to-purchase law, which required handgun purchasers to pass a background check before legally obtaining a weapon, “contributed to a fourteen percent increase in Missouri's murder rate” :
Missouri's 2007 repeal of its permit-to-purchase (PTP) handgun law, which required all handgun purchasers to obtain a license verifying that they have passed a background check, contributed to a fourteen percent increase in Missouri's murder rate.
“This study provides compelling confirmation that weaknesses in firearm laws lead to deaths from gun violence,” said Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research and the study's lead author. “There is strong evidence to support the idea that the repeal of Missouri's handgun purchaser licensing law contributed to dozens of additional murders in Missouri each year since the law was changed.” [Johns Hopkins University, Center for Gun Policy and Research, 2/17/14]
Between 1994 And 2009, Nearly 1.8 Million Applications For Firearms Transfers Were Denied. In 2013, NBC News reported that almost 2 million applications to buy a gun were denied between March 1994 and December 2008 via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which “checks a buyers eligibility with a search that usually takes less than a minute” . The report said many of those applications were from a person prohibited from owning a gun because of a serious mental health problem or a convicted felon:
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 established the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which allows the seller to check a buyer's eligibility with a search that usually takes less than a minute. The system was fully launched in 1998. Before selling a gun, the gun store worker calls in to the FBI or other designated law enforcement agency to run a check against the system's records. If the prospective buyer's record doesn't raise a red flag - possible triggers include a person having been adjudicated as mentally ill or being sought by law enforcement - the sale is cleared to go through.
Are background checks effective?
The numbers show that background checks do keep guns out of the hands of at least some people who are not supposed to have them. Nearly 1.8 million applications for firearm transfers or permits were denied between the passage of the law in March 1994 and December 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The FBI and state law enforcement denied firearm purchases to 153,000 people in 2010 alone, the most recent year for which data is available. [NBCNews.com, 4/10/13]
MYTH: More Guns Leads To Less Crime
Fox's Napolitano: “Statistically, Where There Are More Guns, There's Less Crime.” On Fox & Friends, Andrew Napolitano repeated the conservative canard that more guns reduce violence. Napolitano falsely claimed that there was statistical evidence to prove his statement. [Fox News, 10/6/15]
Center For Gun Policy And Research: Concealed Carry Laws Most Consistently Linked To Increase In Aggravated Assault. An October 2012 report from the Center for Gun Policy and Research summarized existing research on concealed carry laws and found that looser restrictions on carrying firearms in public resulted in a “one to nine percent increase in aggravated assaults” :
So-called right to carry (RTC) laws allow individuals who are not legally proscribed from possessing firearms to carry concealed weapons in public, either by making it easy to get a permit to do so, or by not requiring such permits at all. Arguments for RTC laws are premised on the idea that everyone who is eligible to legally own a firearm is law-abiding, and is at low risk for committing a violent crime. Research cited above concerning weak standards for legal firearm ownership calls this into question. A recent review of concealed carry permit holders in North Carolina examined criminal offending in the group over a five-year period. During that period, more than 2,400 permit holders were convicted of crimes (excluding traffic violations), including more than 200 felonies and 10 murders or manslaughters. An additional 900 had been convicted of a drunk driving offense, an offense commonly associated with substance abuse.
The most consistent finding across studies which correct for these flaws is that RTC laws are associated with an increase in aggravated assaults. Using various statistical methods, estimates range from a one to nine percent increase in aggravated assaults as a result of RTC laws. [Johns Hopkins University, Center for Gun Policy and Research, October 2012]
American Journal Of Public Health: Correlation Exists Between Gun Ownership Rates And Gun Homicide Rates. A study by researchers at Boston University and Harvard University published in the November 2013 edition of the American Journal of Public Health found a “robust correlation” between gun ownership and gun homicides over a 30-year period (1981-2010). Boston University said, “even when controlling for factors typically associated with homicides” the researchers found a 0.9 percent increase in firearm homicides for every 1 point increase in gun ownership across all 50 states:
The study, covering 30 years (1981-2010) in all 50 states, found a “robust correlation” between estimated levels of gun ownership and actual gun homicides at the state level, even when controlling for factors typically associated with homicides. For each 1 percentage point increase in the prevalence of gun ownership, the state firearm homicide rate increases by 0.9 percent, the authors found.
Regression analysis was used to examine the relationship between state levels of gun ownership and firearm homicide rates, while controlling for a range of potential state-level confounding variables, including: age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanization, poverty, unemployment, income, education, divorce rate, alcohol use, violent crime rate, nonviolent crime rate, number of hunting licenses, age-adjusted non-firearm homicide rate, incarceration rate, and suicide rate.
The regression model predicted that each 1 percentage point increase in gun ownership increases a state's firearm homicide rate by 0.9 percent, translating into a 12.9 percent increase in the gun homicide rate for each one standard deviation increase in gun ownership. All other factors being equal, for example, the model predicts that if the gun ownership estimate for Mississippi were 58 percent (the average for all states), instead of 77 percent (the highest of all states), its firearm homicide rate would be 17 percent lower.
The results of the research are consistent with previous studies that have demonstrated a correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher levels of firearm homicide. [Boston University, 9/13/13]
Harvard Injury Control Research Center: “In Homes, Cities, States And Regions In The US, Where There Are More Guns,” There Are More Gun Homicides. According to a series of peer-reviewed studies published by researchers at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, higher levels of gun ownership are associated with higher homicide rates at the city, state, and national level in the United States and other developed nations:
Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide. [Harvard Injury Control Research Center, accessed 10/6/15]
MYTH: “Gun-Free Zones” Are Easy Targets And Attractive To Shooters
Fox's Kilmeade: Mass Shooters Seek Out Gun-Free Zones Because They “Want An Easy Target.” On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade agreed with Andrew Napolitano's assessment that gun-free zones invite violence, claiming shooters “want an easy target” and seek out gun-free zones. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/6/15]
Everytown For Gun Safety: 87 Percent Of Mass Shootings Occur Where Guns Can Be Carried. Of 134 mass shootings documented by Everytown for Gun Safety between January 2009 and July 2015, only 13 percent occurred where guns could not be carried:
[Everytown for Gun Safety, August 2015]
DOJ: Schools, Which Typically Ban Guns, Are Much Safer Environments For Young People Than Surrounding Communities. A June 2014 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the proportion of youth homicides that occurred at school has never exceeded 2 percent of total youth homicides for all years where data was collected. [Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2014]
Mother Jones: No Evidence Mass Shooters Pick Their Targets Because Of Gun Carrying Rules. According to an April 2013 analysis of 62 public mass shootings that happened over the previous 30 years, Mother Jones concluded that “not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns” :
With its overtones of fear and heroism, the argument makes for slick sound bites. But here's the problem: Both its underlying assumptions are contradicted by data. Not only is there zero evidence to support them, our in-depth investigation of America's mass shootings indicates they are just plain wrong.
Among the 62 mass shootings over the last 30 years that we studied, not a single case includes evidence that the killer chose to target a place because it banned guns. To the contrary, in many of the cases there was clearly another motive for the choice of location. For example, 20 were workplace shootings, most of which involved perpetrators who felt wronged by employers and colleagues. Last September, when a troubled man working at a sign manufacturer in Minneapolis was told he would be let go, he pulled out a 9mm Glock and killed six people and injured another before putting a bullet in his own head. Similar tragedies unfolded at a beer distributor in Connecticut in 2010 and at a plastics factory in Kentucky in 2008. [Mother Jones, 4/1/13]