With a hearing on so-called “gun violence” as a “public health crisis” before the Senate Judiciary Committee as a backdrop, a debate about firearm fatality data has erupted because a senator from Louisiana and a public health expert witness tangled over whether Chicago is deadlier than some southern states.
As noted by Fox News, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) was questioning Dr. Megan Ranney, dean of the Yale School of Public Health when he asked, “Why do you think that Chicago has become America’s largest outdoor shooting range?”
Ranney, a witness invited by majority Democrats on the committee, quickly deflected the conversation by responding that Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri “actually have higher firearm death rates.”
“I think there’s easy access to firearms combined with environmental conditions, lack of great education,” Ranney responded. “There have actually been studies that when you green vacant lots and repair abandoned buildings in urban neighborhoods you see decreases in gunshots and violence as well as in stress and depression in the neighborhoods around them.”
The hearing is archived on C-SPAN and may be viewed here.
Kennedy called Ranney’s response “word salad.”
But Fox News Digital did some homework in the hearing’s aftermath and this is what the network is now reporting: “Data reviewed by Fox News Digital shows Chicago’s gun homicide rate has ranged from 25-29 murders per 100,000 people since 2019. In 2019, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi saw 12.5, 9.3 and 13 gun homicides per 100,000 people, respectively.”
Translation: Chicago has a significantly higher homicide rate than the three states Ranney named.
But there is more clarity when comparing the actual body counts. In 2022, Chicago saw 738 total homicides including 666 involving firearms, according to Heyjackass.com. Last year, according to data posted at Statista.com, Louisiana’s statewide murder total was 408, Mississippi logged 131 slayings and Missouri posted 623 homicides, the latter number largely due to the reported 200 killings in just the city of St. Louis. Likewise, New Orleans tallied 280 murders last year, according to WDSU News, which certainly dominated the statewide total.
The mayor of New Orleans is a Democrat. The mayor of St. Louis is a Democrat. Indeed, Fox News pointed to a 2022 study conducted by Heritage Foundation scholars Zach Smith, Kevin Dayaratna and Cully Stimson which found the majority of cities with high homicide rates are so-called “blue cities.”
Adding to the debate, a separate Fox report compared crime in Florida and California, and the Golden State came up alarmingly short.
When the FBI released its annual crime report for 2022, Fox noted, “Violent crimes for the state of Florida fell by nearly 32% in 2022 compared to 2019, and by 23% when compared to 2021 data. California saw violent crimes spike by 13% last year compared to 2019, and by 3.8% when compared to 2021 data.”
Florida is a decidedly “red” state while California is “blue” with a Democrat-dominated legislature. Florida has more than 2 million active concealed carry licenses, and permitless carry versus California, where gun control laws are among the most restrictive in the nation, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would essentially nullify the Second Amendment and turn gun ownership into a regulated privilege.
Weighing in on the debate, John Lott, founder and president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of several books dealing with the subjects of guns and crime, told Fox News that “public health experts” are allegedly ignoring data from 2021 showing “blue” states with higher murder rates than “red” states, opting instead to use data from 2020, which showed the opposite.
However, Lott reportedly told Fox, “You can look at either all counties or counties over 100,000, or I could give you one for counties, over 200,000 or whatever and you see that the Biden counties had significantly higher murder rates. And, even in 2020, the reason why the Trump states had a higher murder rate that year was because the Biden counties had really high murder rates relative to the Republican counties. So, I don’t know how anybody with a straight face can get away with not recognizing that law enforcement and punishing criminals generally is overwhelmingly decided locally.”
Lott maintains that local policies determine local crime data.
The battle over gun rights versus gun control will continue, but debates such as this one over data help clarify the issue, with the side supporting gun rights holding the statistical high ground.