The conservative website The Federalist on Wednesday corrected a massive reading comprehension fail by liberal, gun-grabbing celebrity Seth MacFarlane. Federalist senior contributor Daniel Payne noted that the Family Guy creator “tweeted out two charts to seemingly make the case for gun confiscation.”
One said, “Americans make up about 4.43 percent of the world’s population, yet own roughly 42 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms.” In a second tweet, he included a chart and huffed, “When this data...is cross-referenced with this data, it’s pretty damning.”
Yet, Payne wrote:
These tweets generated quite a big reaction, but the data they cite are not, in fact, “damning;” they’re not even purgatorial. To understand why, one simply has to compare the two charts, notice what is different between them, and also note the clever, if profoundly dishonest, sleight of hand in which MacFarlane engaged.
The first chart, which simply measures the rate of privately owned guns per 100 people, contains a large number of disparate countries from many different regions and continents. The second chart, in contrast, measures that data alongside gun-related deaths per 100,000 people. MacFarlane was trying to make the case that, due to the United States’ high levels of both gun ownership and gun violence on the second chart, we have a gun violence problem tied specifically to our high rates of gun ownership.
What is easy to see, however, and what MacFarlane neglected to mention, is that the second chart does not contain data comparable to the first one: there are many less countries on the second, and they are overwhelmingly more prosperous than most of the countries on the first chart, which comes from The New York Times. Indeed, the blog Tewksbury Lab—the source of the gun violence chart—explicitly makes that clear; they labeled it “Gun Violence as a Function of Gun Ownership rates for countries with a Very High Human Development Index Score.”
In other words, MacFarlane’s chart examining gun-death rates draws from a carefully curated and deliberately selective data pool, one in which countries with “very high human development” are the norm.
Why does this matter? Because MacFarlane’s entire thesis is destroyed when you expand the data pool to feature more countries like those on the first chart. Indeed, Tewksbury Lab—from which MacFarlane borrowed the second chart then cropped out the title to cover up his rank dishonesty—provides an additional chart that proves this to be true: within a broader data pool that compares numerous countries of varying economic development, the United States still has the most guns yet has nowhere near the highest amounts of gun-related deaths.
Indeed, the countries in question with the highest rates of gun-related deaths—El Salvador, Honduras, Swaziland, Jamaica, Guatemala—all have overwhelmingly lower rates of gun ownership than the United States does. This means MacFarlane’s effort to correlate gun ownership and gun violence is reputed by his own data sources.
MacFarlane made his name with intentionally shocking comments, such as calling George W. Bush a retard and Jesus Christ sex jokes. So it's not surprising that the Sanders supporter is a bit sloppy with his facts.