Wednesday, June 15, 2016

PolitiFact again goofy on guns (Updated)

There PolitiFact goes again.

PolitiFact Florida did a fact check on a gun-related topic. "Orlando area" Rep. Alan Grayson claimed Orlando shooter Omar Matteen's rifle is able to fire 700 rounds per minute helping to directly lead to the high death toll from the tragedy.

The good news is that PolitiFact Florida did a decent-enough job on reporting the gun facts. Sure, "Glock" is a name brand and should have been capitalized. But PolitiFact found expert sources and appeared to mostly relay their statements accurately.

The fact is the rifle Mateen used cannot fire 700 rounds per minute.

So why is it "Mostly False" instead of "False"?

Let's go to PolitiFact's summary section (bold emphasis added):
Grayson said that the rifle Mateen used "shoots off 700 rounds in a minute."

On CNN, he includes this claim without any clarification. In other forums, he noted that his claim is only true for the hypothetical semiautomatic rifle converted to an automatic weapon.

Even then, however, experts say the 700-round-per-minute figure is not an accurate portrayal of rounds fired. This is true for many reasons, they said, including reloading time and the potential of overheating the gun.
That's right, ladies and gentlemen. If Mateen had an automatic version of the rifle he used, which he did not, he still would not have been able to fire off 700 rounds in a minute. But he would have been able to fire off quite a few rounds.

It looks to us as though PolitiFact is saying it is "Mostly False" that an automatic AR-type rifle can fire 700 rounds per minute. And PolitiFact gives that "Mostly False" rating to Grayson for claiming an automatic version of the rifle can fire 700 rounds per minute. And placing that "Mostly False" rating next to Grayson's separate (false) claim that Mateen's semiautomatic version of the rifle can fire 700 rounds per minute.

But we don't know. Maybe PolitiFact Florida thinks it's "Half True" that the automatic AR-type rifle can fire 700 rounds per minute, even though it cannot. And PolitiFact averages that out with a "False" rating for Grayson's claim about the semi-automatic version to get "Mostly False." And after that PolitiFact places the "Mostly False" rating next to Grayson's "False" claim that Mateen's rifle could have fired 700 rounds in a minute.

Any way you slice it, it comes out goofy.

Would anyone like to wager that it would have received a "False" rating if Donald Trump had said it?

Update June 20, 2016

Subsequent reading (and arguments) on the subject of firing rate inspires an update.

Is PolitiFact's "Mostly False" justified simply based on the fact that Mateen's gun is rated by the manufacturer to have 700 rounds per minute capability in short bursts, even if Mateen could never pull the trigger quickly enough to achieve that rate of fire?

We reject that argument as absurd.

We find it absurd because the same is true of non-automatic weapons. If you pull the trigger quickly enough on a revolver, there is no limitation on its rate of fire that a semiautomatic weapon does not share. The absurdity trebles upon considering part of Rep. Grayson's argument that PolitiFact Florida allowed to pass. Grayson said the high rate of fire for the AR-15 style weapon resulted in a much higher death toll than if Mateen had used his Glock pistol.

The quotation comes from PolitiFact Florida's fact check:
"If somebody like him had nothing worse to deal with than a glock [sic] pistol which was his other weapon today, he might have killed three or four people and not 50," Grayson said.
But the Glock 17/18 pistol has a similar--actually higher--rating for its potential rate of fire.

Grayson did not know what he was talking about. If the cyclic rate is the relevant factor (it isn't) then the Glock pistol is the more dangerous weapon. Did anybody learn that from PolitiFact's fact check?

The fact goes whoosh past PolitiFact Florida. No worries, Rep. Grayson. PolitiFact Florida's got your back.

Correction 6/15/2016: In the first paragraph, originally had "700 rounds per second" where "minute" was intended instead of "second." The wording now matches the intent.
Clarification 6/20/2016: Belatedly included a link to PolitiFact Florida's fact check of Grayson.

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