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Forbes and Bloomberg miss the mark on guns

Written By | Jan 6, 2015

WASHINGTON , January 6, 2015 — If you follow Emily Millers Facebook page, as I do, you would have found as an offering today a quick blurb about an Forbes infographic which claims DC to be the second most “gun friendly state in America.” According to the graph DC has a rate of firearms ownership of 66.4 per 1,000 people, coming in second only to Wyoming, which boasts an impressive rate 195.7/1000.

However having lived in and around DC for eight years, and being familiar with their policies and attitudes towards firearms, I could not help but follow this particular issue down the rabbit hole.

The Forbes blurb dated January 5, 2015, cites a Bloomberg article posted on December 15. That post was entitled “Most Registered Guns per Capita: States.” In the post, under the “Overview Section” it reads:

“Bloomberg ranked the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia by the number of registered firearms per 1,000 residents.”

Continuing to “Methodology” it reads:

“Firearms are defined by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives as a destructive device, machine gun, silencer, short-barreled rifle, short-barreled shotgun and any other weapon capable of being concealed on the person which a shot can be discharged.”

Under “Source(s)” it reads: ATF’s National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record, U.S. Census Bureau.”

This raised further questions for me, so I went to the ATF’s National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record site . It quickly became clear to me that both Forbes and Bloomberg were going off of some, shall we say, misinterpreted information.

What a few clicks uncovered for me was that the graph that Bloomberg and Forbes were showing off, the one that made Washington, D.C out to be the second most “gun friendly” state in the country, was not only misleading, but it showed a lack of research and a dishonest attempt to make Washington out to be “gun friendly” when in fact they are anything but.

First, here is the actual definition of a “firearm” by the ATFE.

“The term “firearm” is defined in the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. Section 921(a)(3), to include (A) any weapon (including a starter gun), which will, or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon…. Based on Section 921(a)(3), air guns, because they use compressed air and not an explosive to expel a projectile, do not constitute firearms under Federal law — unless they are manufactured with the frames or receivers of an actual firearm. Accordingly, the domestic sale and possession of air guns is normally unregulated under the Federal firearms laws enforced by ATF.

We caution that ATF is not charged with enforcement or oversight of the firearms laws of States or localities. To determine possible restrictions on air guns where you reside, we recommend that you contact the office of your state Attorney General, the State Police, or other State/local law enforcement authorities for further guidance.” (

What the graph so proudly touted by Forbes and Bloomberg actually represents is the number of “nationally registered” devices under the NFA or National Firearms Act. These are your machine guns, suppressors, sawed off shotguns, mortars, etc…They are for extreme collectors as well as firearms manufacturers and dealers, as well as those individuals who possess select fire weapons such as M-4’s and MP-5’s. The National Firearm Registration and Transfer Record is a highly regulated tax and monitoring system run by the ATFE to keep tabs on the gear out there in America that keeps the government up at night. It does not, as the graph would lead one to believe, track a national firearms registry of long guns and hand guns.

In fact, with the exception of a stolen firearms database, as well as those weapons covered under the NFA, a national registry does not (at least publicly) exist in this country. Long guns and handguns are not registered upon purchase with the federal government, although in some states they do require registration with a firearm regulatory body. The entire concept behind the taglines and descriptions are false.

What this graph is actually showing is in fact the number of devices, including incomplete guns, gun parts, and even Molotov Cocktails, that are registered with the ATFE in these particular states. They are taxed, they are monitored, and they cannot legally cross state lines without prior notification of the ATFE. On the other hand, if you wanted to take your Mossberg 500 across state lines you do not have to inform anyone. If Forbes and Bloomberg wanted to title the posts “Top Ten States with the Most Items Registered Under the NFA” that would be right on the money. However, since they tried to swing the information to make DC look “gun friendly” it seems they have missed their mark.

In fact if Forbes or Bloomberg wanted to do an article concerning the number of guns owned per state, the closest thing they would be able to get to a real number is a phone or internet poll. Even a quick look at the number of NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) checks per state would be misleading, considering that one background check can be used to purchase multiple firearms.

Of course the original article was pieced together by Bloomberg, which of owes allegiance to the same individuals who run Everytown for Gun Safety and a number of other gun control groups. These are the same people who spout the 30,000 gun deaths a year number and refuse to take into account that gun homicides are significantly lower.

Whether or not Forbes and Bloomberg were unintentionally misleading, or purposefully misconstruing data and misrepresenting facts to suit a political agenda is unclear. However what is clear is that Forbes, Bloomberg and I have obviously varying definitions of the phrase “gun friendly.”

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Conor Higgins

Conor Higgins has a BA from Catholic University in DC and an MA form George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, both in history. When he not getting his hands dirty in 2nd Amendment and firearms news he is doing his best to take a crack at some drive-by political analysis. And every now and then he may or may not review a low end bourbon for the tax write off. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Back Porch Politics.