The New York Times as a Fake News Site: Again cites false information from the Violence Policy Center

Dec 9, 2016 | Featured

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Once again the New York Times is citing bogus data from the Violence Policy Center (VPC).

But since 2007, concealed-carry permit holders have been responsible for at least 898 deaths not involving self-defenseaccording to the Violence Policy Center, a gun safety group. This includes 29 mass shootings by permit holders who killed 139 people. Separate research has found that despite the overwhelming number of guns in America, they are very rarely used in self-defense or to stop crimes. The self-defense myth of concealed carry nevertheless carries on, at the expense of public safety.

Letter to the Editor that the CPRC sent to the New York Times:

Dear Editor:

The Times erroneously asserts that over nine-and-a-half years there were 898 non-self-defense gun deaths nationwide by concealed handgun permit holders (“The Threat to Public Safety if ‘Concealed Carry’ Goes National,” 12/1).

Suppose for the sake of argument that Violence Policy Center has accurately identified the cases you refer to, with over 14.5 million permit holders at the beginning of this year, the 19 pending homicide charges so far this year implies an annual rate of 0.14 homicides per 100,000 permit holders.  And the vast majority of these will be found to be in self-defense.

Yet, these numbers are a mess.  Take Michigan, which is identified as the worst state for permit holders with supposedly 72 homicides.  Many non-cases are tripled or quadrupled counted.  “Pending” and “conviction” numbers from the Michigan State Police reports are both counted, though cases might be listed as pending for years before they go to court and most never result in a conviction.  News stories of these same events are also counted as separate cases.


John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D.

Crime Prevention Research Center

Of these 898 deaths as of November 16, 2016, 286 of them are suicides just from Michigan.  The points that we made in 2014 about the errors in using this data for Michigan still hold true now.  As to the Violence Policy Center claim based on FBI UCR information on justifiable homicides to show that guns are rarely used for defensively, please see this previous post that we put up.  As another point, note that the vast majority of the pending cases are from 3, 4 or more years ago.  These cases should clearly not be included in the total.  What happened was that while the initial arrest received news coverage and a conviction would also have received news coverage, instances where the charges are drop virtually never receive media coverage.

Even in the extremely rare instances where police have been shot by permit holders, it is a mistake to automatically assume that the permit holder is at fault.  Take this very recent case from Corpus Christi, Texas (December 2016):

A Nueces County jury has delivered a not guilty verdict in a case where a man accused of shooting three CCPD SWAT officers.

Ray Rosas was found to be not guilty in a shooting that happened February 19th, 2015. Police were serving a warrant at his home on Churchill Drive when they say he opened fire and shot three officers.

When the trial began last Wednesday, Rosas faced seven charges. However, the prosecution dropped three counts of attempted capital murder Monday afternoon, and the jury deliberated three counts of aggravated assault. . . .

The defense argued Rosas did not know he was firing at police, after SWAT actions were not carried out simultaneously and he was disoriented by a flash-bang grenade going off in his bedroom.

“The case is so easy,” defense attorney Lisa Greenberg said. “This is a self defense case.” . . .

Unfortunately, as usual, the NY Times did not see fit to alert their readers to problems with their claims.  Other letters can be seen here.