LA City Council Pointlessly Exaggerates Gun Deaths Since Columbine

@THE GUSS REPORT-Leave it to politicians, such as Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian, to take tragic statistics about the enormous number of American gun deaths since the 1999 massacre at Colorado’s Columbine High School and bastardize them for dramatic effect as he did last Friday, the 19thanniversary of the incident. 

The not-so-truthful statement from Krekorian went as follows: 

“…in the 19 years since Columbine, 570,000 Americans have died from gun violence….” 

Followed by his patently untruthful next words: 

More than World War II, World War I and the Civil War combined, since Columbine.” 

As Huell Howser used to say, “Oh boy!” 

Tens of millions of people died in World War II alone, leading me to ponder how Krekorian sourced and/or parsed this declaration. I reached out to his Communications Director Ian Thompson who provided a link to the PolitiFact article from which the 570,000 gun death statistic was drawn. 

But since the article was from 2015, it requires extrapolation of the number of gun deaths in the years since. When asked, Thompson wrote in an email “with 30,000 additional gun deaths each year, 2015, 2016 and 2017.” 

That’s a nice, neat figure, which was also patently untrue. 

PolitiFactdoesn’t support Krekorian’s claim, and neither does this more recent BBC piece citing Gun Violence Archive, “13,286 people were killed in the US by firearms in 2015.” 

Make no mistake, each of those deaths was pointless, as was Krekorian’s and Thompson’s 126% exaggeration of them. 

PolitiFactfurther contradicted Krekorian’s claim, showing that 750,000 died in the Civil War alone; 32% higher than the Councilman’s dubious 570,000 post-Columbine figure, and that doesn’t even count WW1 and WW2. 

Thompson kept hurling explanations for Krekorian, like this doozy: 

“The numbers he cited were not incorrect. And the statement was made during announcements after the end of official Council business. In addition, the Civil War numbers you cite are misleading. The vast majority of all deaths in that war were non-combat related and caused by disease.” 

So, let’s parse: 

Thompson: “And the statement was made during announcements after the end of official Council business.” 

So, since Krekorian made these claims after City Council’s agenda was completed, it shouldn’t be scrutinized for accuracy?

Thompson: “the Civil War numbers you cite are misleading.” 

They are PolitiFact;the source Thompson himself provided to me on Krekorian’s behalf! 

Thompson: “The vast majority of all deaths in that war were non-combat related and caused by disease.” 

I asked Thompson to then provide a source which does have gun-related deaths in those battles, which he did not, admitting, “the stat was never about gun deaths only. It has always been American deaths on battlefields (whatever the cause) in wars.” 

Thompson kept shoveling until he acknowledged several hours later, “it was a misstatement for the Councilman to say that that number is more than the deaths in WWs I, II and the Civil War.” 

Eureka! 

Which brings me back to the question I repeatedly asked Thompson: Knowing that Krekorian “misstated” the facts during the City Council meeting broadcast, will he correct it when they are back in session on Tuesday?” 

That remains to be seen. It’s important because Krekorian is an extremely articulate, highly educated official with a law degree (though he has been ineligible to practice law in the State of California for several years due to a license suspension) because, as Chair of the city’s Budget and Finance Committee, as Chair of the Jobs Creation Committee, and as Vice Chair of the Board of Referred Powers, and of the Housing Committee, the things he says matter greatly and, some believe, have greater consequences than those of most of his colleagues. The numbers he quotes matter, too, because he can promote or stop laws based on them. 

Thompson wrote that questions about Krekorian’s statement were “quibbling.” 

There is a gun violence problem in the United States, worse than virtually everywhere else in the civilized world. Where Americans disagree is on its causes and what to do about them. But in order to deal with the issue, we have to be able to rely on government officials seeing the problem clearly, talking about them truthfully, and openly correcting mistakes when they are made. 

The NRA has been asked for comment. 

Note: I do not own a gun, and never have. 

Krekorian’s statement, made in the context of the city’s gun buy-back program, can be seen here, if you nudge the cursor ahead to the 2 hour 41 minute mark. It is a worthwhile sentiment, but factually untrue.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.)