POLITICS
05/04/2018 06:53 pm ET

Trump Regurgitates Pro-Gun Talking Points At NRA Convention

The president threw red meat to firearm enthusiasts while ignoring a more complicated reality.
President Donald Trump had a lot to say about guns at this year's NRA convention. But the facts are more complicated tha
NICHOLAS KAMM/Getty Images
President Donald Trump had a lot to say about guns at this year's NRA convention. But the facts are more complicated than he let on.

In his address at the National Rifle Association’s annual Dallas convention Friday, President Donald Trump swerved to thank Kanye West for supposedly doubling his African-American poll numbers before getting right to the point: “Let’s talk about guns, shall we?” 

The president then proceeded to dole out some questionable information on guns, gun control and people who carry guns.

Here are the highlights. 

Claim: 98 percent of mass shootings happen in gun-free zones.

The statistic Trump cited comes from the Crime Prevention Research Center, which claims that, in a span of more than six decades, 98 percent of mass shootings occurred in “gun-free zones.” 

Take it with a big grain of salt: The study was authored by John Lott, a gun rights advocate and author of a recent controversial New York Times op-ed on background checks. The meaning of the statistic heavily depends on how both “mass shooting” and “gun-free zone” are defined.

An official definition of “mass shooting” doesn’t exist, and there’s a lot of debate over which incidents count and which don’t. The FBI stipulates that three or more people must be killed for the term to apply, but Lott defined it as four or more deaths in public. By doing so, he discounted private residences where domestic violence-related shootings have occurred. He also did not count shootings that were “part of another crime,” such as a robbery. 

There’s also no official way to define “gun-free zone,” which may apply to places where civilians can’t carry firearms but officials can. The way Lott chose to define it in his research is questionable; for example, he considered military sites like Fort Hood to be ‘gun-free zones,’ even though guns are clearly present there.

That gun-carrying civilians lead to crime prevention is an old NRA talking point: A good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. Experts strongly dispute this idea. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded in 2005 that “no link between right-to-carry laws and changes in crime is apparent in the raw data.”

PolitiFact deemed the statistic Trump cited Friday only “half-true.”

Claim: Some teachers should carry guns to prevent mass shootings.

“There is no sign more inviting to a mass killer than a sign that declares that this school is a gun-free zone,” Trump said at the convention, repeating his proposal to arm some teachers and school security guards.

HuffPost’s Rebecca Klein spoke to teachers and law enforcement officials about Trump’s idea and found many of them were against it, including the national teachers unions. Many worried that such a policy would do more harm than good and lead to a lot of students being injured by accident at school. 

“Anyone who hasn’t received the extensive training provided to law enforcement officers will likely be mentally unprepared to take a life, especially the life of a student assailant,” Mo Canady, the executive director of the National Association for School Resource Officers, said in a statement. 

Claim: Chicago’s strict gun laws are evidence that gun control doesn’t work.

“We all know what’s going on in Chicago, but Chicago has the toughest gun laws in our country,” Trump said Friday.

Trump and others in the pro-gun crowd have long held up crime rates in Chicago as evidence that gun control doesn’t work. Although both Illinois and its largest city do have strong gun laws, Chicago is a short drive from both Wisconsin and Indiana, where laws are significantly weaker. Studies have found that most of the guns used in crimes in Chicago come from out of state, with many coming from much farther away.

Beyond that, Trump’s comments ignore the fact that homicides and shootings in Chicago have actually been on the decline for more than a year. In 2017, Chicago had the ninth-highest homicide rate of any U.S. city.

Claim: The Bataclan massacre might’ve been prevented if more Parisians had guns.

“Paris, France, has the toughest gun laws in the world,” said Trump, going on to explain how a small group of terrorists armed with AK-47s “brutally killed” more than 130 people in the French capital in 2015.

“If one employee or just one patron had a gun … the terrorists would have fled or been shot, and it would’ve been a whole different story.”

This is another of Trump’s favorite talking points, which he’s been using since the November 2015 Bataclan massacre.

Putting aside for a second the absolute chaos that might have ensued if an arena full of armed concertgoers had decided to open fire on their assailants in the pitch dark, Trump is also leaving out some broader context.

With its strong gun laws, the overall firearm death rate in France is about one-quarter of what it is in the U.S. Although violent crime is not unheard of in Paris, the city experiences just a fraction of the homicides that an American city of a comparable population does. Gun homicides also appear to be primarily an issue among rival criminal gangs.

Claim: Criminals will use knives if they can’t use guns ― just look at London.

“I recently read a story that in London, which has unbelievably tough gun laws, a once very prestigious hospital right in the middle, is like a war zone for horrible stabbing wounds,” said Trump. “Yes, that’s right, they don’t have guns, they have knives, and instead there’s blood all over the floors of this hospital.”

We’re not really sure what Trump’s point is here. If he’s noting that all violence is not gun violence, then sure. But the fact that Londoners are making it to hospitals to receive care is significant. Knives tend to be less lethal than guns, and it’s far easier to injure or kill larger numbers of people, often indiscriminately or unintentionally, by shooting than it is by stabbing.

A recent study in the U.S. found that more gunshot victims are dying before reaching the emergency room than they were a decade ago, even as trauma care has improved. One theory for this trend is an increasing “intensity” of violence, suggesting people may be getting shot more times, at closer range, with higher-caliber rounds, or simply while farther from the nearest hospital.

There’s no saying how much worse the problem would be in London if it were as easy to get a gun there as it is in the U.S.

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