Fact-check: Guns and violence

How big a part did Arizona’s gun laws play in the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson nearly two weeks ago?

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks says Arizona’s gun violence rate is lower than that of Washington, D.C., which has more restrictive gun laws.

Franks made his comment in a Time Magazine article this week asking whether gun control is dead:

The vast majority of the state’s politicians — including Loughner’s primary target, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat and gun owner — are strong Second Amendment supporters. Congressman Trent Franks, a Republican and gun owner, points out that Arizona has a much lower gun-violence rate than Washington, D.C., which has much more restrictive gun laws. “Criminals always prefer unarmed victims,” Franks says. There have been no reports out of Arizona of any credible push for new gun restrictions; in fact, several reports show citizens are flocking to gun shops to increase their firepower.

True? The Arizona Republic fact-checked the assertion today, and found it is… sort of.

David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and author of “Private Guns, Public Health,” largely agrees.

“You want to compare rural states to rural states and urban states to urban states, and you don’t want to compare cities to states,” Hemenway said. “You want to have everything else as similar as possible. Otherwise you could say, ‘In Japan, they smoke more than in the United States, yet they have lower heart disease. Smoking must be beneficial for heart disease.’ It’s silly. There are too many other things.”

The paper noted that Massachusetts, which has roughly the same population as Arizona, but has stricter gun laws, has half the “gun violence” of Arizona.

The fact-check concludes by saying Franks’ assertion is misleading.

  • Justin

    Massachusetts vs Arizona doesn’t sound like a ‘rural to rural’ comparison to me. One could argue the paper’s note is misleading.

  • Bob Collins

    A lot of Mass. is pretty rural.