Making stuff up

With a title for a book review like Fighting Gun Disease (the actual book is Enter the Babylon System: Unpacking Gun Culture from Samuel Colt to 50 Cent) you know the review and probably the book is going to have some serious problems. I wasn’t disappointed:

There are 65 million handguns in the U.S. It’s estimated up to 1.8 million of them are stolen every year in the States and as many as 25 per cent of all handguns eventually show up in a crime.

The 65 million number might be close. It seems plausible at least. The 1.8 million stolen each year doesn’t. I looked up the U.S. production records on the ATF website and found that after subtracting the exports manufactures entered 1,043,538 handguns into U.S. commerce in 2005. Imports added another 856,259 which adds up to 1,899,797 handguns entering into the U.S. in 2005. This includes those that went to the U.S. military and law enforcement. Some anti-gun bigot apparently figures that annual import and manufacture of handguns just barely covers the number of firearms stolen each year and it gets the number published in book.

As many as 25 per cent of all handguns eventually show up in a crime? Then that would mean that just to keep up with the annual increase in handguns (~1.9 million in 2005) there would have to be at least 474,949 firearm crimes using different handguns.

From the FBI we find there were 139,994 aggravated assaults and 135,444 robberies with firearms in 2005 add that to the 7543 murders committed with handguns in 2005 and we end up with only 282981 crimes committed with handguns. Hence, even if every single crime involved a different gun we come up 191968 short of estimate.

Of course there mght be additional crimes committed with handguns which aren’t listed but the vast majority will be covered in those three categories. And the above numbers make the very conservative assumption that each crime involves a different gun. Clearly someone was just making stuff up. It’s not an “estimate” by anyone qualified to be making estimates on this topic.

This reminds me of an entry in my quote database:

42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.