Another Gun Expert Also Gets It Wrong.

On Thursday I posted a column about an article on gun sales in Business Insider which used the wrong data from the FBI-NICS background check system and thus wrote a piece about the large number of guns sold on Black Friday which was completely and totally wrong.

So, today we get another article about gun sales in another news website, 24/7 Wall Street, which says that gun sales declined sharply in November, 2021 compared to November, 2020. In other words, instead of gun sales going up, gun sales have gone down.

Except there’s only one little problem because the author of this latter piece, Douglas McIntyre, uses the same FBI-NICS background check data used by the writer for Business Insider, and by using FBI-NICS data which doesn’t say what he thinks it says, he also gets it all wrong.

The FBI-NICS group down in West Virginia publishes data on all the calls the group receives. And they refer to all these calls as ‘background checks.’ Except less than half the background checks that the FBI-NICS agents handle each month are for the transfer or sale of guns. In fact, calls come in to the call center for 24 different reasons, of which only 4 of those reasons happen to be calls where dealers are checking whether they can sell someone a gun.

Want to take a gun back from a pawn shop because it didn’t sell? The pawn shop can’t release that gun to you until they get clearance from FBI-NICS. Want to rent a gun to shoot at a public shooting range? Some states require that the rental can’t occur until a background check is done. You can find all 24 categories in the monthly report issued by FBI-NICS right here: NICS Firearm Checks: Month/Year by State/Type — FBI.

But Doug McIntyre didn’t use that report to write a story about how gun sales are way down. He used the report which gives monthly calls on a state-by-state basis but doesn’t break out the calls by why the background checks are being made: NICS Firearm Checks: Month/Year by State — FBI.

So, for example, he tells us that Kentucky registered 372,237 calls in November, which was 17% of all calls received, but the state has only 1.3% of the country’s total population. Man — they must really love their guns in Kentucky, right?

In fact, of those 372,237 calls that came in from Kentucky to the FBI-NICS call center in November, 340,000 were for rechecks of gun licenses so that the cops in Kentucky could make sure that someone who holds a gun license hasn’t committed a disqualifying crime since his license was previously approved. The number of background checks for November gun purchases in Kentucky was 29,060.

I own a gun store in Massachusetts but haven’t done any retail sales in the last couple of years. According to McIntyre, residents in Massachusetts bought 240,538 guns in November and if this were true, I would be crazy not to immediately re-open my shop. In fact (here we go again using that nasty word ‘fact’) the total number of background checks for November gun sales in Massachusetts was 10,851. Thank you very much Doug, but I’ll keep my gun shop closed.

McIntyre also has figured out how many guns were bought in each state this year which gives him the content for another article and gives 24/7 Wall Street more space to run ads.

I can’t wait to see the stories about the Michigan school shooting that will no doubt appear in media sites like 24/7 Wall Street or Business Insider. If those stories are as mis-informed as the stories about how many guns got sold on Black Friday, we won’t have the faintest idea about what happened at the high school in Oxford, or why it happened, or anything else.

As far as I’m concerned, what all this mis-reportage represents is the simple fact that gun violence, even in its most extreme form like shootings of multiple students in schools, has become just another, occasional item of news, without any real concern or sense that something is fundamentally wrong.

So far this year, about 435,000 Americans have died from Covid-19, which means we will probably top out at around 500,000 Covid-related deaths in 2021. So, the Pandemic has added about 15% to our annual death toll. That’s a big deal.

As for the shooting in Michigan, this event has only increased the overall mortality/morbidity gun-violence number by .0001%. No biggie, right? No biggie at all.

No wonder the experts who explain gun violence to the rest of us get it wrong.

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