Conservative Media Mindlessly Criticize “Strict” Gun Laws In France After Charlie Hebdo Shooting

Right-wing media figures illogically rushed to blame France's strict gun policies after three gunmen killed 12 people at the offices of satire newspaper Charlie Hebdo during a terrorist attack. In the United States, where gun laws are comparatively less restrictive, there is far more gun violence and public mass shootings happen with greater frequency.

While much of the conservative media reacted to the attack on Charlie Hebdo with Islamophobia, commentators also used the shooting to attack the regulation of firearms.

On the January 7 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland said that one thing that stood out to her about the attack is “that in France they have a very strict gun control policy.” Later on Fox's The Five, host Greg Gutfeld said the victims of the attack were “sitting ducks” because the country “has the most powerful gun control in the world, and nobody's armed.” On Fox Business Network, Fox's senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said, “One of the reasons these people are dead is because they were sitting ducks. One of the reasons they're sitting ducks is you can't carry a gun in Paris. This would not happen in New York City.” On Twitter, frequent Fox guest Donald Trump wrote that the attack occurred “in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world.”

Contrary to the impression given by conservative commentators, gun ownership is allowed in France, including the carrying of guns in public under extremely limited circumstances. Compared to the United States however, gun owners in France undergo a far more comprehensive licensing and screening process and are largely prohibited from owning semi-automatic weapons that are common in the United States.

Typically in France, someone is murdered with a gun every two to three days. On a typical day in the United States, 32 people will be murdered with a gun. The United States has a gun homicide rate more than 14 times higher than France:

Mass public violence where a gun is used is not unheard of in France. In 2012, a man used guns to kill three soldiers and four civilians. A man angry at his local government shot to death eight people at a government building in 2002. In 1995, a 16-year-old shot 16 people to death before committing suicide.

Mass public shootings, however, are much more commonplace in the United States. Many of the United States' most infamous mass public shootings have occurred over the last two decades, including the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, the 2009 Fort Hood mass shooting, the 2011 Tucson, Arizona, mass shooting that left then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords seriously wounded, the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the 2013 mass shooting at Navy Yard facilities in Washington, D.C. According to data collected by Mother Jones, 24 public mass shootings that left seven or more people dead have occurred since 1995 in the United States.

The conservative media reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shooting echoed baseless arguments made by right-wing commentators following a December 2014 incident in Sydney, Australia, where a man with “a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability” used a shotgun to hold people hostage at a café. Fox News hosts used the incident to question Australia's strict gun laws, even though gun violence is rare in Australia compared to the United States.