The National Rifle Association's online magazine attacked an analysis of federal data that found that more than 200 hate crimes were committed with firearms between 2011 and 2013, writing that the number is not “enough to merit mention.” The gun group also falsely claimed that the data in question “shows firearms are not being used in hate crimes.” The NRA's stunning statements come less than two months after a white man shot to death nine African-American parishioners at a historically black church in South Carolina, in what authorities have classified as a racially-motivated attack.
An Aug. 12 article in the NRA's online magazine, America's 1st Freedom, headlined, “Gun Hating Justifies Race-Baiting,” accuses The Trace of “twisting federal data to taint guns with the most radioactive subject in American politics: race” because it published an article that analyzed federal hate crime data to determine how many incidents involved guns.
Although only recently launched, The Trace -- an online venture that describes itself as “an independent, nonprofit media organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States” -- has quickly become a target for criticism by NRA-run media, which span online, print, and radio. (Though editorially independent, The Trace received part of its seed funding from Everytown for Gun Safety, whose founder, Michael Bloomberg, is perhaps the NRA's top adversary in the gun debate.)
In an Aug. 10 article, The Trace analyzed data from the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and found that between 2011 and 2013, 207 hate crimes involving firearms were reported. As The Trace notes -- and even the NRA acknowledges -- only around one-third of police departments in the country report this type of data to the FBI. In addition to hate crimes that go unreported, this means that the total number of hate crimes committed with guns is very likely greater than the number of incidents in the NIBRS.
The Trace article, headlined “The Gun Doesn't Have To Go Off for it to Be a Hate Crime,” cited several hate crime incidents, including June's mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina as well as an incident from the NIBRS where an African-American woman and her children were repeatedly threatened by a white man who waved a gun and yelled racial epithets at them. The Trace's analysis of FBI data found “79 [hate crime] incidents in which an anti-black bias was the known motive (more than twice as many as crimes driven by any other bias).”
The NRA took issue with The Trace's characterization of the FBI data, writing in America's 1st Freedom that the piece “took a stab at creating the impression of a nationwide hate-crime spree fueled by bigots waving firearms” and made an attempt at “smearing guns and gun owners with such a dingy film of racism.”
The NRA article nonsensically countered that the FBI data actually “shows firearms are not being used in hate crimes” -- even though official reports from NIBRS include 207 such incidents between 2011 and 2013. From America's 1st Freedom:
Analysis; Data; Pattern. One can almost see the banks of lights flickering on The Trace's supercomputer. After all, it would take one to look at federal data that shows firearms are not being used in hate crimes, yet at the same time see an epidemic of bigots intimidating minorities just by waving guns around.
America's 1st Freedom also accused The Trace of “manipulat[ing] the numbers so self-servingly, any self-respecting database would be ashamed to be cited by them,” apparently because The Trace broke down data in several categories, including charts showing the races of victims and perpetrators and a graphic showing which type of bias is most common in reported hate crimes.
Although the NRA article initially denied the incidence of hate crimes with guns at all, it later acknowledged that these crimes do occur, but argued that they do not happen often enough to merit attention.
In response to The Trace's observation that incidents in which a gun is used to threaten violence in a racially-charged situation are not “often talked about in America,” the NRA responded: “It's not talked about because, by your own 'research,' it's not freaking happening often enough to merit mention. Your own research finds that only 2.6 percent of hate crime involves firearms.”
That's more than 200 gun-abetted hate crimes that the NRA doesn't think is enough to warrant a discussion.