This has been bouncing around my Facebook feed for the past couple of days, and it’s really starting to get on my nerves because it’s pretty much just blatantly false. There are a number of things wrong here. The first that jumped out at me was the baseball bat issue. Note, first of all, that the asterisk appears next to non-firearm homicides, but then goes on to describe a weapon used in violent crimes. Right away this should be a huge red flag that data is being cherry picked.
So, I looked for the data. It took me all of 5 minutes to find it right there on the FBI website, so we can check their work. According to the FBI, violent crime is defined as homicide, rape, burglary, and aggravated assault. Of the 1.2 million violent crimes committed nationally in 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available), 62.4% were aggravated assault. 21% of which were carried out with firearms. A third were carried out with “other weapons”, defined as “clubs, blunt objects, etc.) This is, I assume, the category in which we would find baseball bats.
For robbery, 29.4% of 2011’s violent crime, 41.3% were carried out with a firearm. “Other weapons” accounted for only 8.7%.
For homicide, which was 1.2% of 2011’s violent crime, a whopping 67.7% were carried out with a firearm. Only 13.1% were carried out with “unknown or other dangerous weapons”, they only category in which a baseball bat could fit.
Weapons statistics were not collected for rape.
So are you itching to whip out your spreadsheet and figure out how many violent crimes were carried out with a baseball bat, vs with a gun? I knew you were. But I’ve spoiled all your fun, and done it for you! A total of 315,134 violent crimes were carried out with a firearm in 2011, 26% of the year’s total. For “other weapons”, 279,012 crimes were carried out, for 23% of the year’s total. Even if we assume that every weapon that is not a firearm or a knife is a baseball bat, the information in the graphic doesn’t even come close to being true.
To whomever put this graphic together: If you’re going to cherry pick data to make a misleading case, at least have the decency to cherry pick data that supports your case.
And to anyone that sees this on their Facebook: please point out the above to the poster. This issue is too important for everyone to be getting false information from a spurious graphic.
Also, note the Yes, Virginia reference in the title of a post about violent crime statistics. There’s something just plain wrong about that, but I did it anyways.
Read Full Post »