On “Meet the Press” earlier this month, Michael Bloomberg claimed that what he is doing “is nothing about gun control.” But host David Gregory, acting as a cheerleader, not a probing questioner, let that statement go unchallenged. Unfortunately, Bloomberg is used to overwhelmingly uncritical media coverage.
Bloomberg, who is currently spending $50 million per year on his various gun control organizations, has pushed for everything from assault weapon bans, magazine size limits, gun-free zones, fees on people buying ammunition or guns, and a long list of other regulations. He now wants to convince us that he is very reasonable.
Unfortunately, Bloomberg is the worst type of gun control true-believer: the type who believes his goals justify making up facts.
With groups such as Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns getting virtually all their funding from Bloomberg, take some of the claims these groups have pushed.
— In “Get the Facts About Gun Violence in the United States” from Bloomberg’s Moms Demand Action, the very first link goes to a report from the Violence Policy Center entitled “Concealed Carry Killers.” As I pointed out in April, the report double and triple counts cases, many of which should be classified as defensive gun uses and thus not counted. Many suicides that don’t involve guns are also counted in these killings. The numbers are grossly inflated, but despite commentary pointing out such gross errors, Bloomberg’s group still lists the unaltered report as the first report that they cite.
— After the Santa Barbara attack, Bloomberg’s Moms Demand Action asserted: “84 percent of female firearm homicides in 25 countries are in U.S.” However, they never told the reader that many of the other countries were tiny nations, with as few as 2 million people. That makes a huge difference. And the data is decades old. Recent data has only total homicides, but it is clear that women in the U.S. are not at greater risk than women in other countries. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, women are not at a greater risk of being killed in the United States. Indeed, in 2012, the U.S. actually has one of the lowest female homicide rates in the world.
— Both of Bloomberg’s groups, Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, claim that there were 44 mini-Newtowns with a total of 28 deaths at our nation’s schools between Dec. 14, 2012 and Feb. 10, 2014. But their numbers are easy to refute, as their statistics are a hodgepodge of unrelated numbers added together. Not all the attacks they included occurred on school property. Legitimate self-defense is included in the “mini-Newtowns.” In addition, about 40 percent of the deaths involved lone suicides committed by people who were not students, with virtually all well outside of school hours. Up to a third of the attacks involved gang fights.
Are those problems that we should be concerned about? Sure, but deaths off of school property, lone suicides, and gangs don’t have the same causes and consequences as “mini-Newtowns.” For K-12 schools, the true number is very different. There were 6 students murdered over this 14-month period. Another 7 were murdered at colleges.
— In January 2013, Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns released a report asserting: “academic publishing on firearm violence fell by 60 percent between 1996 and 2010.” This, they said, “has driven many experts to abandon the field and kept young researchers from taking it up. … But the decline in federal research has undermined overall knowledge-creation because scholars are highly dependent on federal grants to support their research.” All that was blamed on an amendment to the federal budget that the NRA supported that prevented the CDC from lobbying for gun control.
Again, the claim is totally false. Firearms research in medical journals didn’t fall. Bloomberg’s bizarre measure looked at firearms research as a percentage of all medical journal research. Firearms research has gone up; it is just that medical journal research in other areas has gone up even faster.
— Of course, when Bloomberg isn’t just making up numbers, the research he funds takes cherry picking data to new heights. In a study released this year of so-called “universal background checks,” which provide checks on all private transfers of guns, a Bloomberg-funded study looked at only one of the states that have had such a law, only when the law was rescinded, and examined only one type of violent crime.
While it is true that the murder rate in Missouri rose 17 percent relative to the rest of the U.S., in the five years after 2007, it had actually increased by 32 percent during the previous five years. There is a reason why they didn’t study the other states and didn’t even look Missouri when the law was adopted in 1981 – research that looked at all the states over all the years that the data was available actually found a slight increase in murders.
— Bloomberg’s cherry picking extends to polls. Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns continually pushes a poll supposedly showing that 74 percent of NRA members “support background checks for all gun sales.” The poll was used to push for “universal background checks,” which covers transfers, not just sales. Even worse, polls that asked Americans about a particular law get dramatically different results. For example, in April last year, the PEW Research Center asked people about the bill that had just been defeated in the Senate. The poll found that Republican and independents approved of the bill’s defeat by margins of 51-34 and 48-41, respectively.
Bloomberg’s studies show one thing: a consistent willingness to do whatever is necessary, even make up data, to get the desired results. Disappointingly, the news media keeps giving Bloomberg funded research massive uncritical coverage.
John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of More Guns, Less Crime.