Gun Shy: How The Washington Post Fumbled to Protect Bernie Sanders' Outrageous Defense of Lax Gun Laws

Gun Shy: How The Washington Post Fumbled to Protect Bernie Sanders' Outrageous Defense of Lax Gun Laws

Left: Leaders in New York hold a press conference on gun trafficking. Right: Bernie Sanders.

Left: Leaders in New York hold a press conference on gun trafficking. Right: Bernie Sanders.

This morning, The Washington Post published a "fact check" against Hillary Clinton's claim that more guns on a per capita basis from Vermont than any other state end up being used in crimes in New York.

Bold claim. Fact-checkable, verifiable. Washington Post's fact checkers gave this claim three Pinocchios. Wow. They must have found it to be inaccurate. Let's see their judgment on the actual thing that Hillary Clinton said.

In 2013 and 2014, the states where the most number of out-of-state crime guns originated were Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia. The state with the most number of guns per 100,000 people was, indeed, Vermont.

Damning.

The Post even included the following chart, originally published by the New York Times, showing the ranking of states where guns used to commit crimes in New York came from.  Vermont is not just the top gun trafficking state for New York when adjusted for population, it far and away takes the cake. The closest competition - with the exception of New York itself - is South Carolina.

Source: Washington Post, Data: New York Times. Highlights: TPV.

Source: Washington Post, Data: New York Times. Highlights: TPV.

But, argue the Pinocchio handlers at the Post, the per capita numbers are not important to tracing the roots of gun crimes, raw numbers are. Hillary Clinton's point is, therefore, while accurate, so misleading that it might as well be a lie, they claim.

That would be true if Hillary Clinton's core argument in this case was on how to trace gun trafficking. Instead, Clinton was making the point that state laws on guns matter. Clinton was making that point because Bernie Sanders has often touted his talking point that despite having nearly no gun laws, Vermont has few gun crimes. Sec. Clinton was in essence calling that view tunnel visioned, especially for a candidate looking to lead the entire country, because a key problem with lax gun laws in states that have them is that they become conduits for trafficking.

And as a measure of ineffectiveness of lax gun laws leading a state to become a conduit for trafficking, the proportional numbers are all important.

Consider this set of raw numbers. Vermont, a state of 600,000 is responsible for as much gun violence in New York in raw numbers as California, a state of 39 million. That means that about 10 guns for every 100,000 Vermont residents is ending up being used in gun violence in New York, while California contributes 15 guns, per 1,000,000 residents. This is the difference tough gun laws make.

The NRA's favorite Democrat's support for lax gun laws in his home state and at the federal level are even more critical given the fact that the Unites States is an international conduit for gun traffickers. A report by the Government Accountability Office released earlier this year found that nearly three out of four guns used by Mexican drug lords in that country's drug war was trafficked - much of it legally (through a loophole) - from the United States.

The Post pines for context, but misses the most important concept entirely: lax gun laws don't just make us less safe, it makes our fellow citizens neighbors less safe as well.  They miss the context that states have a responsibility to prevent trafficking of weapons, not just violent crimes within its borders. Any objective measure of whether a state is doing a good job of addressing trafficking has to include per-capita trafficked weapons statistics.

And when a candidate for president implies that lax gun laws are just fine because the crime is happening in someone else's backyard, their opponent is not the one who deserves three Pinocchios for pointing that out.



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