Monday, January 2, 2017

CPRC: "Is Politifact really the organization that should be fact checking Facebook on gun related facts?"

The Crime Prevention Research Center, on Dec. 29, 2016, published a PolitiFact critique that might well have made our top 11 if we had noticed it a few days sooner.

Though the title of the piece suggests a general questioning of PolitiFact's new role as one of Facebook's guardians of truth, the article mainly focuses on one fact check from PolitiFact California, rating "Mostly True" the claim that seven children die each day from gun violence.

The CPRC puts its strongest argument front and center:
Are 18 and 19 year olds “children”?

For 2013 through 2015 for ages 0 through 19 there were 7,838 firearm deaths.  If you exclude 18 and 19 year olds, the number firearm deaths for 2013 through 2015 is reduced by almost half to 4,047 firearm deaths.  Including people who are clearly adults drives the total number of deaths.

Even the Brady Campaign differentiates children from teenagers.  If you just look at those who aren’t teenagers, the number of firearm deaths declines to 692, which comes to 0.63 deaths per day.
This argument cuts PolitiFact California's fact check to the quick. Instead looking at "children" as something to question, the fact-checkers let it pass with a "he-said, she said" caveat (bold emphasis added):
These include all types of gun deaths from accidents to homicides to suicides. About 36 percent resulted from suicides.

Some might take issue with Speier lumping in 18 year-olds and 19 year-olds as children.

Gun deaths for these two ages accounted for nearly half of the 7,838 young people killed in the two-year period.
Yes, some might take issue with lumping 18 year-olds and 19 year-olds in as children, particularly when checking Merriam-Webster quickly reveals how the claim stretches the truth. The distortion maximizes the emotional appeal of protecting "children."

Merriam-Webster's definition No. 2:
a :  a young person especially between infancy and youth
b :  a childlike or childish person  
c :  a person not yet of age
"A person not yet of age" provides the broadest reasonable understanding of the claim PolitiFact California checked. In the United States, persons 18 and over qualify as "of age."

Taking persons over 18 out of the mix all by itself cuts the estimate nearly in half. Great job, PolitiFact California.

Visit CPRC for more, including the share of "gun violence" accounted for by suicide and justifiable homicide.

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