What the John Hopkins Missouri Gun Report Ignores (On Purpose?)
John Hopkins is about to release a report in which they claim gun murders rose in Missouri exclusively because they stopped background checks in 2007. They have two facts right. Background checks ended in 2007 and the rate of gun murders did rise. But something else happened in 2007, they fail to mention. In 2007 there was no death penalty in Missouri. They also left the statistics of other violent crimes committed with guns, including rape and robberies, and assaults. The death penalty resumed May 20, 2009.
On June 26, 2006, U.S. District Judge Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City suspended Missouri’s death penalty after lengthy hearings on the matter. Judge Gaitan reasoned that the state’s lethal injection protocol did not satisfy the Eighth Amendment because (1) the written procedures for implementing lethal injections were too vague, and (2) the state had no qualified anesthesiologist to perform lethal injections. Jay Nixon, the Missouri Attorney General, promptly appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis.
The Eighth Circuit held oral argument in the case on January 10, 2007, and a decision was released on June 4, 2007. The case is number 06-3651, Taylor v. Crawford. The Court reversed the decision of the district court and vacated the injunction, allowing for the death penalty to resume. The court found:
- 1. Risk of accident in carrying out of execution protocol does not form basis for claim of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of Eighth Amendment; rather, inquiry on challenge to execution protocol is whether it inherently imposes constitutionally significant risk of pain.
- 2. State’s lethal injection protocol, utilizing sodium pentothal (thiopental), pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride, did not involve substantial foreseeable risk of wanton infliction of pain, and thus did not have to mandate participation of anesthesiologist or additional monitoring equipment in order to comport with Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment; written protocol called for ample quantity of thiopental to cause unconsciousness, and mandated medical supervision by physician, emergency medical technician or nurse, including examination to confirm unconsciousness prior to third injection.
The first execution since Gaitan’s ruling was on May 20, 2009. This suspension was partly due to a national de facto moratorium while the Supreme Court of the United States decided Baze v. Rees. The court set the first Missouri post-Baze execution date in June 2008. For various reasons no executions were conducted until May 20, 2009
So of the four major crimes committed with guns, only murders increased. The other three saw decreases from 2008 to 2012. Does that make sense? If the lack of background checks were the cause of the rise in murders, would there not be an increase in the other three categories?
Executions for capital murder resumed in 2009. Here’s another statistic you will find interesting. In the two years prior to the suspension of the death penalty, the numbers of murders were 368 and 385. In the two years after the death penalty was reinstated the number of murders were 366 and 389. In between those years murders were 456, 387, and 420.
And let’s go back and look at rapes, assaults, and robberies for those same years. Remember, the death penalty was restored for full year in 2010
Rapes…. (2007 prior to cutting background checks 1740) 1614 (2008) 1606 (2009) 1445 (2010) 1469 (2011) 1511 (2012)
Robberies (2007 prior to cutting background checks 7165) 7396 (2008) 7437 (2009) 6185 (2010) 6275 (2011) 5782 (2012)
Aggravated assaults (2007 prior to cutting background checks 20,418 ) 20,245 (2008) 20,083 (2009) 19,390 (2010) 18,778 (2011) 19,473 (2012)
So, if we are to believe the John Hopkins report, we have to assume that in the first year murders shot way up and the absence of the death penalty had no effect whatsoever and after that all the people who didn’t do background checks decided not to shoot so many people. They would also had to have an agreement not to use the guns in rapes, robberies, and assaults.
The report also claims that only 15 states have laws requiring background checks on guns bought from private sales. What they don’t tell you is that those 15 states have high rates of violence like California, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts. But the fact is a large number of guns used in crimes are illegal, either having been stolen by the criminal himself (9%) or bought illegally on the streets (28%) .
The John Hopkins’ report says:
The study, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Journal of Urban Health, finds that the law’s repeal was associated with an additional 55 to 63 murders per year in Missouri between 2008 and 2012.
That was true in 2008, but as we saw 2011 and 2011 was at the same levels they were before 2007.
Figures don’t lie but liars do figure.
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