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Dropping the Standard: More Fake News About Gun Owners

Dropping the Standard: More Fake News About Gun Owners

Being gun owners, Second Amendment advocates and NRA members means we have to take our lumps in the media on a nearly daily basis. Never mind that we can’t believe most of what we read, due to the strong anti-gun and anti-gun owner bias so prevalent in media today.

Enter the Pacific Standard and contributing editor Jared Keller, whose latest “report” on gun owners takes fake news to a new level.

Keller’s headline read, “Americans Love Guns, But They Have No Idea How To Use Them.” That was followed by the snarky subhead: “Devotion to the Second Amendment has somehow replaced personal responsibility as the core idea of the right to bear arms.”

If you think that’s bad, wait until you see the actual story.

Keller’s entire premise is summed up in his lead sentence: “The United States is awash in guns—and a significant portion of those gun owners have no idea how to use their weapons.” And as he follows that line of thinking, he completely misrepresents the so-called “data” he is using to make that claim.

… the appropriate headline could just as easily have read, “Gun Owners Receiving Formal Training Jump Nearly 10 percent.”Keller bases his argument on a new “study” by researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health that was published in the journal Injury Prevention. The research results contend that 61 percent of firearm owners “had received formal firearm training.”

Whether that’s true or not, Keller uses it as his jumping off point to claim gun owners don’t have a clue what they’re doing.

“While that's an increase from the 56 to 58 percent of Americans who reported firearm training in a similar nationally representative survey conducted in 1994, the number of Americans who demonstrably know their way around a gun, in the study authors' words, ‘has not meaningfully changed since two decades ago,’” he wrote.

In truth, if the numbers are to be believed—and I have no reason to think they are either true or false—the appropriate headline could just as easily have read, “Gun Owners Receiving Formal Training Jump Nearly 10 percent.” The story then could have had the lead sentence, “American gun owners are safer than ever, with the number saying they have taken a formal training course jumping by nearly 10 percent, according to a recent survey.”

Why the giant difference between his news story and mine, both gleaned from the same information? It’s simple: Rather than tell the truth, Keller instead chose to use the information about more gun owners receiving training to make gun owners look as bad—and as stupid—as possible.

As an aside, while so-called “formal training,” taught by qualified instructors, is very helpful for building safety and gun-handling skills, it’s hardly necessary in order for a gun owner to understand the workings of his or her firearm and know how to handle guns safely. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the criminal use of firearms, which is what Keller was apparently using the whole “uneducated gun owner” argument to address.

He quickly jumps from “lack of training” to unrelated discussion of so-called “gun violence,” regaling readers with statistic after statistic about murders committed by criminals with firearms. And he seems to especially delight in regurgitating false anti-gun claims that good guys with guns hardly ever stop bad guys with guns.

It’s likely the reason Keller quickly departed from his initial premise of uneducated gun owners being dangerous is because he knew he was reporting fake news. In truth, accidental deaths by firearms have been falling for several decades, and are now at an all-time low. According to the National Safety Council, there were only 489 unintentional firearms-related fatalities in 2015, down some 17 percent from the year before.

Keller likely knows those facts, yet he writes around the issue by stating that “it's increasingly difficult to measure accidental gun deaths in the U.S. when the CDC data doesn't consistently measure national incidents.”

It might be difficult to measure it, but that doesn’t mean Keller should completely avoid the fact that the figure of 489 deaths from 2015, as reported by the NSC, was the lowest since record-keeping began in 1903. Any discussion of gun safety that omits such an important trend deserves the title of “fake news.”

Mark Chesnut has been the editor of America’s 1st Freedom magazine for 17 years and is an avid hunter, shooter and political observer.