Ezra Klein’s ‘Facts’ About Guns and Violence Tell a Slanted Story

Soon after the Aurora mass murder, Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein waded into the fray, citing curious data to “prove” that we need more gun control to make society safer. But what he said and how he said things show he’s just another anti-rights elitist using tragedy to advance his agenda.

Klein displayed bias by claiming that not politicizing the Aurora shooting is only to halt discussing gun control:

The aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado shootings has been thick with calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws.”

His assumption is code for “the only desirable outcome here is more gun control.” Klein’s politicizing is okay; your desire to have a viable self-defense tool—and not be held accountable for a murderer’s actions—is not.

Mr. Klein, why has the civil right of self-defense become political?

Klein attempts to make six major points in his defense of gun control.

1. America is an unusually violent country.

Klein supports this assumption by citing a researcher’s graph of assault deaths in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. By conveniently ignoring most of the dataset, he made it appear that America is much more violent than any other country.

The latest United Nations homicide data show that America tied Argentina for the 50th most violent country, again using murder as an indicator. Like Klein’s graph, this dataset consists of OECD member countries, except for Tajikistan, which had a lower murder rate and didn’t affect our ranking.

Including Small Arms Survey’s firearms inventory research destroys the “guns equals violence” premise. (SAS is a pro-gun control, UN-affiliated organization.) All countries with higher murder rates—and more gun control—have much lower rates of gun ownership than America. The graph below shows a downward trend in murder rates as firearms ownership increases (more guns, less murder).

Curiously, Klein considers a country like Syria “less violent” because its murder rate is lower than ours. Government agencies provide crime data, and murders that are carried out by government are legal and therefore not crimes. So when Syrian security forces killed 44 protestors last fall—or when the UN says “more than 5,000 people have died in the uprising since March [2011]”— according to Klein, that’s not violence. But those 5,000 victims mean Syria’s murder rate was about 22 per 100,000 population in 2011, not the 3 per 100k reported by the UN.

This would tie it with Brazil for the 12th highest murder rate in the world. Acknowledging these truths would undercut Klein’s goal of politicizing a mass murder to build more reliance on government, because it’s government that murders the most people. University of Hawaii Professor Emeritus Rudy Rummel studied government-sponsored mass murder, and concluded that governments murdered 262 million people in the twentieth century. Totalitarian countries that disarm their subjects are the most violent.

(For greater detail, read chapter 6 in Four Hundred Years of Gun Control.)

2. The South is the most violent region in the United States.

Here’s one fact Klein had right. The FBI divides America into four regions: Northeast, Midwest, South, and West. In 2010, the South accounted for 41.5% of all violent crimes reported to the FBI. But Klein ignores relevant issues to create a simplistic conclusion.

Between 2000-2010, the South experienced a 22.3% decline in its violent crime rate, beating the U.S. decline of 20.3%.

Also, Klein doesn’t account for illegal immigration-related crime, which has a significant impact on southern states like Texas. For example, a 15 year old was charged with nine murders after crashing a van smuggling illegal immigrants near the Mexico border. Fifteen more illegal immigrants died recently when another smuggler crashed his overloaded truck. Minus the dead driver, that’s 23 more murders in Texas this year, all related to illegal immigration.

Houston police officer Rodney Johnson and Dallas officer Brian Jackson were murdered by illegal immigrants.

In Florida, a Haitian illegal immigrant with a long rap sheet and deportation order murdered three people in their North Miami home. After Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, the president put deportations on hold, so ICE put him back on the street.

Obviously, illegal immigrants commit violence in other parts of the country. But simply saying the South is more violent ignores the impact of policies created by the government Klein believes will make us safer.