After a mass shooting, the NRA traditionally goes silent for a period of time. In the case of the gun massacre in Oregon, the NRA stopped tweeting on Thursday, October 1 at 1:44 p.m., shortly after the news broke. The account resumed tweeting at 12:07 p.m. on Friday, October 2 with an innocuous tweet about gun safety.
By Monday, the NRA twitter account was aggressively tweeting out information intended to head off any efforts to increase gun control in the wake of the massacre at Umpqua Community College. Much of this information, however, was wildly misleading or just plain inaccurate.
Here are five of the NRA’s most egregious recent tweets:
1. There is no gun show loophole.
There is a gun show loophole. At gun shows, unlicensed sellers can sell guns without any background check, waiting period, or paperwork. These are referred to as “private sales.” There are thousands of gun shows in the United States each year.
These unregulated “private sales” of guns also take place on the internet or other physical locations. The NRA disingenuously claims that these additional loopholes mean that there isn’t a specific gun show loophole.
2. The Australian gun buyback didn’t work.
After a gun massacre in Australia in 1996, the government “instituted a temporary gun buyback program that took some 650,000 assault weapons (about one-sixth of the national stock) out of public circulation.” At the same time, the government banned semi-automatic rifles and tightened licensing requirements.
A 2011 Harvard University study concluded that the buyback program was “incredibly successful in terms of lives saved.” There have been no gun massacres — defined as the killing of four or more people at once — in the 17 years since the buyback took place. There were 13 gun massacres in the 18 years prior to the program.
Additionally, the number of firearm suicides and homicides was reduced dramatically. This reduction was directly tied to the buyback program. The Harvard study found that “the drop in firearm deaths was largest among the type of firearms most affected by the buyback” and “firearm deaths in states with higher buyback rates per capita fell proportionately more than in states with lower buyback rates.”
The article cited by the NRA does not dispute the reduction in firearm deaths after the buyback program but simply asserts, without much analysis, that the drop was a coincidence. It relies almost exclusively on a deeply flawed study produced by the Australian gun lobby.
3. Gun free zones are magnets for murderers.
86 percent of mass shootings occur outside of gun-free zones. Studies have found no evidence that people purposely choose gun-free zones for mass shootings. Rather, there is usually another clear motive for the choice of location. In most school shootings, for example, “the killers had personal ties to the school they struck.”
4. Over the last 5 years, twice as many people were killed with someone’s bare hands than with a rifle.
This is misleading to the point of parody. The statistic comes from this chart from the FBI that looks at murder victims from 2010 to 2014. The data found no more than 769 homicides each year with a “personal weapon” — a category that includes hands, feet and any other part of the body. Meanwhile, there were over 8000 homicides by firearms each year.
The NRA isolates the category “rifles” to make guns seem relatively safe — there are around 250–350 homicides with rifles each year — but this just reflects the popularity of handguns over rifles. Additionally, there are between 1600–1900 firearm homicides each year where the type of firearm could not be identified by the FBI. So the NRA’s claim, in addition to being highly misleading, also might not be true.
5. Fewer than 1 percent of criminals get guns at gun shows.
This statistic vastly understates the nexis between gun shows and criminal activity by focusing only on the proximate source of the gun. The same study found that “sixty-nine percent of criminals surveyed reported acquiring guns from a friend, family member, or street seller.” And where did those people acquire their guns? In many cases, at a gun show. Overall, “3 out of 10 guns that criminals use in crimes changed hands at a gun show somewhere in their chain of custody.”