Gun crime expert blasts red state ‘cherry-picking’ by Yale professor in Senate hearing: ‘Political bias’

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A Republican senator and Yale School of Public Health dean recently sparred on gun crime, and one expert told Fox News Digital it was an example of how the left frames data in a way that misleadingly makes it seem like Republican-controlled areas are most plagued by crime. 

“Why do you think that Chicago has become America’s largest outdoor shooting range?” Louisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy asked Dr. Megan Ranney of the Yale School of Public Health at a hearing Monday.

Ranney responded by comparing Chicago to three red states and claiming Mississippi, Louisiana and Missouri “actually have higher firearm death rates.”

“What about Chicago?” Kennedy asked.

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“I think there’s easy access to firearms combined with environmental conditions, lack of great education,” Ranney responded. “There have actually been studies that when you green vacant lots and repair abandoned buildings in urban neighborhoods you see decreases in gunshots and violence as well as in stress and depression in the neighborhoods around them.”

“No disrespect, doc, but that sounds a lot like a word salad to me,” Kennedy responded.

The exchange generated backlash on social media from conservatives who pointed out that the “gun homicide” rate in Chicago is much higher than those states per 100,000 people. Additionally, some took issue with Ranney’s seemingly random selection of three red states while pointing out crime statistics are most useful at the local level, where crime is handled.

Data reviewed by Fox News Digital shows Chicago’s gun homicide rate has ranged from 25-29 murders per 100,000 people since 2019. In 2019, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi saw 12.5, 9.3 and 13 gun homicides per 1,000 people, respectively.

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“Let’s see,” Reason magazine associate editor Billy Binion posted on X. “Some recent stats: Mississippi’s gun homicide rate: ~13 murders per 100,000 people; Louisiana’s gun homicide rate: ~15 murders per 100,000 people; Missouri’s gun homicide rate: ~11 murders per 100,000 people; Chicago’s gun homicide rate: ~29 murders per 100,000 people.”

“Why do you pick just a couple of states to compare?” John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, posted on X. “Is that how public health researchers do research? Why don’t you look at local crime rates where policing policies are determined and where DAs and judges are almost always selected?”

Democrats have routinely pointed to studies in recent years that claim red states have higher murder rates and more crime than blue states. Critics of those studies have pointed out that red states, including Louisiana, where cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge have been run by Democrats for decades, are driving up crime statistics.

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Anybody knows that law enforcement is overwhelmingly a local issue,” Lott told Fox News Digital. “How much money you spend on police, what the police policies are going to be are decided locally. District attorneys are almost always elected locally. Judges are almost always elected locally. Who gets arrested, who gets charged, how you prosecute the cases and the judges that makes the decisions on sentencing are all local decisions.”

“Statistically, it is more dangerous to be young and Black in New Orleans than it was to be a Marine in the Battle of Fallujah during the height of the insurgency in Iraq,” Kennedy said earlier this year. “Those are the numbers. Last year, my city had the highest murder rate in the country, twice the murder rate of Atlanta — twice! … Our murder rate was up 141% since 2019.”

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A recent report from the Heritage Foundation shows that homicide rates have been higher in Democrat-run “blue counties” than they have been in “red counties” since 2002, contradicting a popular talking point recited by prominent liberals like California Gov. Gavin Newsom and billionaire George Soros.

“As you can see from this table, take New Orleans’ murder rate out, and Louisiana’s murder rate falls by over 15%!” Heritage Foundation Legal Fellow Zack Smith posted on X in response to MSNBC Host Joe Scarborough mocking Kennedy over the exchange. “And take Chicago’s murder rate out, and Illinois’ falls by a shocking 55%!”

Last year, Heritage scholars Kevin Dayaratna, Cully Stimson and Smith released a study showing the vast majority of the cities with the highest murder rates in the country are blue cities.

john kennedy

“Crime is a local phenomenon and using state-level data is misleading, often intentionally so,” Dayaratna told Fox News Digital. “As my Heritage colleagues and I pointed out in our Blue City Murder Problem paper, 27 of the 30 cities with the highest homicide rates have Democratic mayors.

“And within those 30, at least 14 have, or had, Soros-backed prosecutors. If you remove the deep-blue cities from the otherwise red states, the state-level murder rates, of course, fall precipitously. One of the best ways to combat gun violence is to put more officers on the streets, empower them to do their jobs responsibly and have prosecutors who prosecute criminals.”

Lott explained that many public health experts have ignored that 2021 data shows blue states had higher murder rates than red states and have stuck with 2020 data that showed the opposite.

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“You can look at either all counties or counties over 100,000, or I could give you one for counties, over 200,000 or whatever and you see that the Biden counties had significantly higher murder rates. And, even in 2020, the reason why the Trump states had a higher murder rate that year was because the Biden counties had really high murder rates relative to the Republican counties,” Lott said. “So, I don’t know how anybody with a straight face can get away with not recognizing that law enforcement and punishing criminals generally is overwhelmingly decided locally.”

Lott also pointed out that Ranney used the term “firearm death rates,” which includes other factors besides homicides, including suicides and accidents with a firearm.

“That’s what public health officials do all the time. They focus on just firearm deaths,” Lott said. He added that while firearm-related suicides sometimes decline when guns are banned, overall suicide numbers remain the same as people “switch to other ways” of committing suicide. 

“To me, it’s just sloppy statistical work by these public health people,” Lott added. “It’s pretty clear that people like Megan want to go and ban gun ownership. And I guess the only thing I would point out is that every place in the world, every single place in the world that has banned either all guns or all handguns has seen an increase in murders or homicides and really no change in terms of suicides and total suicides.”

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Dr. Ranney said, “Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico are the states with the highest death rates; I mentioned Missouri (which is also top 10) simply because I knew St Louis’ homicide rates are second only to New Orleans.”

Ranney added that she did not have city level data at her fingertips and “did not want to misquote” but was “confident that New Orleans’ homicide death rate is much higher than Chicago’s.”

“I absolutely think there is value at looking at death and injury data at all levels, and as I mentioned in my testimony, Americans deserve access to high-quality data on injuries of all kinds,” Ranney said. “I am a public health professional, not a criminologist, so I think of data in terms of injury.”

Lott told Fox News Digital Ranney chose to mention the states she did as part of a political agenda.

“She’s supposed to be an academic, and I just think it shows political bias to selectively pick a couple of states,” said Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws.”

“I mean, I could just pick the states with the very lowest crime rates, and they tend to be very Republican ones. Rather than selectively picking some portion of a sample, you try to look at the whole sample that’s available rather than cherry-picking some stuff.

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