Note to "Media Matters": Integrity Matters

Posted on June 1, 2012

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With many independent voters still undecided in the presidential election, May 30th was as good a time as any for Media Matters and the Violence Policy Center to try to push those independents toward the groups' own fringe territory.

They did so with the "end justifies the means" attitude that's typical of how they and their political allies pursue their goals. Media Matters is a George Soros-funded propaganda operation that describes itself as "a progressive research and information center dedicated to . . . correcting conservative misinformation." The Violence Policy Center was founded (and is still led) by a former activist with the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, who made his political orientation known by initially naming his group the New Right Watch. We think that evaluating the credibility of these groups can help illuminate voters' decision-making process this year.

As we noted in last week's Alert, on May 22 VPC issued a press release pointing out that in 2009, 10 states had more firearm-related deaths than motor vehicle-related deaths. VPC said "Motor vehicle deaths are on the decline as the result of a successful decades-long public health-based injury prevention strategy that includes safety-related changes to vehicles and highway design," and it complained that the manufacture of firearms is not regulated by the government in the same way. (In the past, VPC has said such regulation of firearms should result in a ban on all handguns.)

In a segment on NRA News, we characterized VPC's comparison as "apples and oranges," because almost all motor vehicle-related deaths are accidents, while almost all firearm-related deaths are suicides or homicides. Whether we're talking about guns or cars, the measures that would help prevent accidents are very different from those that would prevent deliberate acts.

These common sense observations provoked Media Matters to accuse us of making a "dubious comparison" and a "contrived argument," and of being "guilty of cherry picking amongst fatality data." And although we said--and Media Matters even admitted that we said--that "most vehicle deaths are accidents," implicitly recognizing that some are suicides and homicides, Media Matters quoted VPC as saying that "NRA ignores the whole category of vehicular homicide and the fact that motor vehicle deaths include suicide."

Here are the hard numbers, so you can decide who's being honest.

In 2009, 99.5 percent of motor vehicle-related deaths were accidental, while the "whole category" of vehicular homicides and suicides that VPC accused us of ignoring accounted for 0.5 percent. By stark contrast, only 1.8 percent of firearm-related deaths were accidental, while suicides and all categories of homicides combined (including justifiable homicides by private citizens and law enforcement officers) accounted for the remaining 98.2 percent.

In every state, deaths from motor vehicle accident vastly outnumber those from firearm accidents. Nationally, in 2009 there were 36,216 accidental deaths involving motor vehicles and just 554 involving firearms--the latter an all-time low, while the number of gun owners is at an all-time high. And with more Right-to-Carry states and carry permit holders than ever before, more people are actually carrying guns than ever before as well. Yet rather than firearm accidents increasing (as gun control supporters predicted) they have declined.

Now, about government regulation and motor vehicle accident trends: The annual number of motor vehicle accident deaths dropped below 41,000 in 1992, then rose to an average of almost 45,000 per year between 2004 and 2007, despite the massive government regulation that Rand mentioned. Motor vehicle accident deaths dropped, all right, to 39,790 in 2008 and 36,216 in 2009—but only because the economic recession of 2008 knocked people out of work and raised gas prices, which cut back on commuting, business and leisure travel.

The numbers speak for themselves. Unfortunately for Media Matters and the Violence Policy Center, the voters can think for themselves.

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