How They Lie: Newsweek Blood in the Streets Edition

Washington DC

Image source: Healthcare IT News

Writing at Newsweek, Diana Shaw Clark warns of the horror about to befall Washington D.C. thanks to gun law changes being pushed by the Trump administration and his “lackeys” in Congress. (And kudos to Shaw Clark for having the stones to use an insult usually reserved for press releases from communist China.)

Most of Shaw Clark’s rant is mostly about the encroachment on D.C.’s governing powers by Republicans, but it’s the gun parts we’re interested in which get plenty of digital ink in her column.

Shaw Clark writes: 
I’m willing to bet there’s one consequence to Donald Trump’s presidency that didn’t occur to you: For the first time in 40 years, due to the Republican Congress emboldened by a new president, guns might return to the streets of our nation’s capital en masse, no longer subject to the controls that have kept gun violence in check for decades.

What she’s talking about is a move to repeal D.C.’s strict gun laws and allow district residents to exercise their 2A rights. And while it may not have occurred to her lefty friends that this would be a result of a Trump win, it sure as hell occurred to us. It was the goddamn reason we voted for him.

D.C. in the 70’s. Image source: WETA

Ms. Shaw Clark continues: Prior to these laws, gun violence in the U.S. capital was out of control. In 1974, more than half of all homicides were committed with handguns. Two years later, in 1976, the District of Columbia voted to ban city residents from acquiring handguns.

Then this: And while gun violence does still plague the city—in 2015, 121 of D.C.’s 162 murders were committed with a firearm—the solution would seem to be harsher restrictions on gun ownership in adjacent states, not easier access to weapons in D.C.

And this: While the legislation (DC’s gun control laws) hasn’t stopped gun violence in the city, it has kept it from raging as it did in the past.

A casual reading of this article would lead one to believe that those draconian gun control laws worked and held D.C.’s murder rate in check. Only now those crazed Republicans want to throw wide the floodgates of slaughter.

To be absolutely clear, Ms. Shaw Clark is stating that those strict gun laws kept the residents of D.C. safer than they would have been without them.  Have kept gun violence in check for decades. Her words.

But did you catch it? How Ms. Shaw Clark seems to be, well, avoiding something.

What she’s avoiding are Washington D.C.’s actual murder statistics over the last 43 years. You know, the actual data which would prove or disprove her thesis.

But we’re gun people. We love data as much as we love bulk .22lr at Cabela’s. So let’s have a peek under the hood.

Checking actual Washington D.C. murder rates instead of just taking the  ex-pat’s (she lived in London for 17 years)  word for it, we find that in 1974, the first year referenced in her piece, there were 277 homicides for a population of 723,000 or a murder rate per 100,000 population of 38.3. Yep. Pretty damned high.

Moving forward to 1976, the year the death-busting handgun ban was passed, the murder rate was 26.7 per 100,000. So what happened then?

If we believe Ms. Shaw Clark, it must have dropped, or at least held steady. Have kept gun violence in check for decades. Good thing all the statistics are available, because we can play a round of “let’s find out.”

In 1977, D.C.’s murder rate was 27.8 per 100,000. Huh? Higher than 1976?  Followed by 28 per 100,000, and another 27 per 100,000 in 1978 and 1979 respectively. Both also higher than 1976.

By 1980, it had popped all the way up to 31.5. 

Wait, popped up? After the passage of laws which Ms. Shaw Clark insists made D.C. safer? How in hell did that happen?

Okay, maybe it took awhile for the murder rate to fall.

1981: 35 per 100,000.

1982: 30 per 100,000. Shit! What in God’s name is going on here?

1983: 29.4 per 100,000. Okay, we’re closing in, baby. Those laws are finally kicking in!

1984: 28 per 100,000. So close, so close.

Finally, in 1985, the murder rate dropped to 23.5 per 100,000. A tiny bit less than the 1976 number, but we’ll take it. Phew! It took close to ten years, but we did it, guys! Now we just crunch some numbers and watch the murder rate plummet, or at least hold steady, as those gun control laws work their magic.

And yes, by 1990 the murder rate in Washington D.C. had dropped to 78 per 100,000. Success… er… wait. What? 78 per 100,000? Are you telling me it didn’t drop at all? It more than doubled? Crap, must be something wrong here. Another bad year, right? A one off. Has to be. No other explanation.

Except 1991 begs to differ: 80 per 100,000.

1992: 75 per 100,000.

1993: 78 per 100,000.

1994: 70 per 100,000.

Despite Ms. Shaw Clark’s belief in the power of gun control, Washington D.C.’s murder rate didn’t fall below the 38.3 per 100,000 we saw in 1974 until 2004. Twenty-eight long, blood-soaked years later.

D.C.’s murder rate didn’t drop below 1976’s 26.7 per 100,000 until 2009. Thirty three years after the gun ban, which, by the way, was tossed out by the Supreme Court in 2008. Her entire pro-gun control thesis blows away once the data is consulted.

In fact, once the handgun ban had been overturned we see that D.C.’s murder rate remains under the 1976 rate, reaching a low in 2012 of 14 per 100,000 or almost half the rate in 1976. 

Image source: Homicide

Even worse for Ms. Shaw Clark’s case, the murder rate in the years 1976 thru 2008 only drops below the highest post-Heller rate ( 2015’s 24 per 100,000) once. That would be 1985,  which beat 2015 by less than one percent. It would actually be more logical to argue that dropping the handgun ban made D.C. safer, not the other way around. But as well as loving guns and the truth, we don’t do correlation = causation here. Without a proper study considering all the variables, we’re not going to make that case.

Now we have to add one caveat. Ms. Shaw Clark is talking specifically about gun murder,  a common tactic of the anti-gun left as well as another way they lie. This is an example of cherry-picking data to make a point. Folks like Ms. Shaw Clark seem to feel that if gun murder goes down, but all murder goes up, well that’s fine and dandy. Not so fine for those who were stabbed or bludgeoned to death, but whatever.

In truth, the gun murder rate is irrelevant in a discussion of public safety. Homicide is homicide and when someone is dead they are dead. The method matters little. Plus guns in civilian hands have been shown to lower the murder rate, so you must consider all murders when making your case. When you run into someone talking only about gun murders, hold on to your wallet.

And though I haven’t looked up the data, I’m pretty sure that there were plenty of gun murders during the slaughter-fest that was the 1990s.

And I know there were plenty of gun murders as recently as 2015. How? FBI UCR data? Nope. No need for a deep dive into the FBI database because 

Ms. Shaw Clark is holding her cards backwards. According to her, in 1974 “more than half” of the murders in DC were gun murders.  Yet two paragraphs later she tells us that in 2015 121 of 162 murders were committed with guns.

This red dots are gun murders. Kind of a lot of them, even 30 years after guns were banned in D.C. Image source: Wikipedia.

I don’t know if Diana Shaw Clark knows how to do math (or maths as they call it in jolly old England) but 121 is 74% of 162. That’s almost three-quarters. More than half indeed.

Finally, she Brit-splains to us that the answer isn’t to relax gun laws in D.C. but to impose similar laws elsewhere.

Again, if her logic was correct, then the places with lax gun laws would have much higher murder rates than D.C. Only they don’t. Arlington, Virginia, shackled under the oppressive yoke of very lax redneck gun laws (though they restrict open carry of “assault weapons” to people with CCW permits) yet geographically so close to D.C. you could hit it with a properly smacked cricket ball, had a 2014 murder rate of 1 per 100,000 and a 2015 rate of 2 per 100,000.

And yes, Shaw Clark makes the semi-auto/full-auto mistake. You would think that by now, after Bloomberg sponsored classes to teach journalists the basic facts about how guns work, writers for national publications would finally understand that civilian AR-15s are not “automatic weapons.”

To summarize: cherry picking gun homicides VS all homicides, dodging the actual evidence and not understanding a fundamental difference between weapon types is how Diana Shaw Clark lies. And what whoppers her lies are, because she presents the very data which destroys her argument right there in her own op-ed.

The question? How did she think she was going to get away with this? Diana Shaw Clark, I’m sure, is not a stupid woman. I mean, if she can figure out the London subway system she has to have something going on upstairs.

No, stupidity isn’t the answer. An evil, gun grabbing agenda is. She knows the numbers don’t add up, yet she makes her case anyway. 

Because what she’s hoping is no one will bother to think about what they just read. No one will spend the two minutes it takes to find Washington D.C.’s murder rate statistics and open the calculator app on their smart phone. They’ll walk away from the article thinking “to hell with those murder-worshipping Republicans” and not dig any deeper.

Cherry picking and manipulating statistics is how they lie.

Complacency is how they get away with it.

*     *     *
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About the Author

Matthew Howe
Matthew Howe
College liberal turned conservative once he started paying taxes, Matthew has been active in the gun-rights and conservative movement for years. The author of the thriller Waypoint, (available on Amazon) he's proud to live in the one county in downstate New York which went for Trump by 17 points.

1 Comment on "How They Lie: Newsweek Blood in the Streets Edition"

  1. You lost a lot of folk, like my Momma and my Granny, with the fourth paragraphs vocabulary.
    The trampling of the second amendment did lead many single issue voters to President Donald Trump’s camp,. The rest of us just viewed it as icing on the cake because we hated Her identity politics, Her hatred of America and Americans, and the piles of dead bodies that seemed to follow the Clontoms from Arkansas, to D.C., and to New York.

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