Buchanan Should Run A Background Check On His Talking Points

In his latest column, Pat Buchanan weighs in on the killing of Trayvon Martin. The former MSNBC contributor (wisely) moves on from discussing the racial aspects of the case, instead using his space to promote the gun lobby's talking points.

Buchanan's take is that the calls from gun violence prevention activists who cite the impact of Florida's gun laws on the case should be ignored, stating that “when it comes to Second Amendment rights, Middle America has spoken -- at the ballot box and the gun store.”

Citing record numbers of background checks of prospective gun buyers, Buchanan claims that Americans are “arming themselves,” adding “More and more citizens, says the National Rifle Association, fear that if or when they confront a threat to their family, lives or property, the police will not be there.”

Buchanan contrasts this theory with the statements of gun violence prevention advocates:

Gun-control organizations claim that gun ownership is actually declining, that fewer and fewer people are buying more and more of these guns.

But the numbers seem to contradict the gun-controllers.

A 2005 Gallup survey found that three in 10 Americans own a gun, that 40 percent had a gun in the house, that nearly half of all men own a gun, as do one in seven women. Two-thirds of all gun owners gave as a reason they own a gun: protection against crime.

Buchanan's analysis makes little sense. Citing only the 2005 Gallup survey is meaningless; in order to disprove a stated trend, you need to analyze more than one data point.

And indeed, according to the General Social Survey (an annual national survey that constitutes “the most frequently analyzed source of information in the social sciences” other than the U.S. Census), the number of people who say they or a member of their household owns a gun is at a record low.

As the Violence Policy Center has detailed, household gun ownership dropped to 32.3 percent in 2010, down from a high of 54 percent in 1977. Personal gun ownership fell to 20.8 percent, down from a high of 30.7 percent in 1987. From VPC:

VPC Chart