CPRC helping to get accurate information out behind the scenes: The Washington Post Fact Checking Obama

12 Mar , 2015  

Three Pinocchios

In today’s Washington Post, Glenn Kessler has a devastating fact check of comments that President Obama made to Benedict College in South Carolina last Friday.  Kessler gave Obama three out of four possible Pinocchios.

“What we also have to recognize is, is that our homicide rates are so much higher than other industrialized countries. I mean by like a mile. And most of that is attributable to the easy, ready availability of firearms, particularly handguns.”

“And as long as you can go into some neighborhoods and it is easier for you to buy a firearm than it is for you to buy a book, there are neighborhoods where it’s easier for you to buy a handgun and clips than it is for you to buy a fresh vegetable — as long as that’s the case, we’re going to continue to see unnecessary violence.”

“People just say well, we should have firearms in kindergarten and we should have machine guns in bars. You think I’m exaggerating — I mean, you look at some of these laws that come up.”

–President Obama, remarks at a town hall at Benedict College, Columbia. S.C., March 6, 2015

Kessler’s reference to “a reader” is a reference to the CPRC and indeed he links back to this page.  Take Kessler’s discussion of the first quote:

The best proxy for “industrialized countries” is the membership of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. There are currently 34 countries in the OECD, but the agency also includes Brazil and Russia in its statistical data. (The two countries have been negotiating for membership but talks have been suspended with Russia because of the Crimea crisis.)

The OECD says the average homicide rate among the 36 countries is 4.1 per 100,000 people.

According to the 2014 data, at the top of the list is Brazil, with a homicide rate 25.5, or six times the average. Next on the list is Mexico, with a homicide rate of 23.4, followed by Russia at 12.8.

Then comes a tie for fourth place—Chile and the United States both have a homicide rate of 5.2. Estonia follows close behind with a homicide rate of 4.7. . . .

Homicide rates OECD 2011 or latest

There is at least one other point that could have been raised.  Obama has a habit of making it appear as if his opponents are against any background checks.  C-SPAN has the talk available here.

1:08:12 Now, the courts and state legislatures — and I’m sure this is true in South Carolina — have greatly restricted the ability to put in place common-sense — some common-sense gun safety laws like background checks.  I personally believe that it is not violating anybody’s rights that if you want to purchase a gun, it should be at least your responsibility to get a background check so that we know you are not a violent felon, or that you don’t currently have a restraining order on you because you committed domestic abuse or — right now, we don’t know a lot of that.  It’s just not available. 

The vast majority of gun purchases currently go through background checks. To say that states such as South Carolina do not have background checks is simply false.  Now if Obama had said that he wanted to expand background checks to private transfers (largely gifts and inheritances to family members), that would be a different story.  But no matter how out cut things the vast majority of gun purchases go through background checks.  Even Obama with his false claim about 40% of gun purchases don’t go through background checks would have to concede that most gun purchases already go through background checks.

UPDATE:  Kessler has gotten some feedback on

Update: Some readers have suggested the president was actually referring the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “food desert” locator, which shows areas of the countries in which it is difficult to buy fresh vegetables. That’s an interesting interpretation that puts the president’s comment in a different light. Not all gun sales require background checks, we should note. For what it is worth, the White House declined to provide an explanation for the president’s comment on vegetables and guns.

“Low-income neighborhoods often lack large grocery stores so it can be difficult to find fresh produce,” said Cathie Whittenburg of States United to Prevent Gun Violence.  “At the same time, the majority of states allow for the private sale of handguns, one where no background check is required.”

Food desserts are supposedly places “an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food.  Many poor people live in food deserts—where they have plenty of food but none of it healthy.”  None of it is “healthy”?  Take McDonald’s, “largest fast food restaurant in the world.”  According to the “Healthy Eating Guide,”  “Bottom line: there’s really no excuse not to make healthier food decisions at McDonalds anymore.”  As to other food choices in those areas, it is also a function of what those consumers want to eat.  If they don’t like eating fresh fruit or vegetables, the stores won’t offer them.

Notes: OECD data on homicides is available here.  UN data on homicide rates is available here.  As an aside, just as Chicago and Philadelphia have had histories of manipulating murder and crime statistics, I suspect that there are a number of these countries have even worse records manipulating their crime statistics.

UPDATE: The Washington Post Fact Check has gotten other coverage at Fox News at the website and TV:

President Obama is under fire from The Washington Post’s fact-checker over a series of recent far-fetched gun claims, including suggesting the country’s homicide rate is higher than that of other industrialized nations “by like a mile.”

The comments, made during a stop in South Carolina last week, earned the president three out of four “Pinocchios” — the fact-checker’s scale for measuring inaccuracy. . . .

Other coverage was given by Breitbart.com.

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