Fact-checking the Claims Behind Article 34

If Lexington is serious about engaging in a town-wide dialog on gun violence, it is imperative that all participants be well-informed, and in possession of reliable, accurate data and statistics.

It was therefore disappointing at the Town Meeting of April 6 to watch Article 34’s proponent distributing pink handouts rife with misinformation, and to have no opportunity for effectively countering or responding to it.

Robert Rotberg’s “fact” sheet contained a number of outright falsehoods and misleading data, and repeatedly mixed “apples and oranges” by conflating general firearms statistics with “assault weapons” data.

In rather poor academic form, Professor Rotberg provided no sources or citations for the claims on his handout (one wonders whether his students were allowed to get away with such omissions.)

Rotberg did face at least one question during the meeting as to the sources for his information, but was able to provide no specifics at the time, merely assuring us that they were “highly reputable gun sites” on the internet, and he would be happy to provide us with specifics at a later time, after the vote was safely taken.  (We have since learned from Rotberg that his “reputable gun sites” includes the online humor magazine Cracked.)

Well thanks to a helpful attendee, we now have a copy of Rotberg’s handout. We think it would be a good idea to give this document the thorough scrutiny, vetting, and fact-checking it deserves.  To this end, we would like to encourage our readers to download this handout and help crowdsource this fact-checking effort (as you can see, our source who provided us with this scan got us off to a head start in this effort by jotting a few notes in the margin.)

Take a look and let us know what you find out.  And please help us raise the bar by providing actual sources to support your conclusions.  (Bear in mind that non-biased research institutions and law enforcement agencies are preferred over satire magazines.)

We weren’t given the opportunity to mount an effective response to this during the meeting, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do so now.  Thank you for your help and for your ongoing support.

4 responses to “Fact-checking the Claims Behind Article 34

  1. Didn’t see a link to download. Assume that will be forthcoming.

    One other thing that might be worth considering, no matter where you stand on the issue, was the way Town Meeting works where a citizen’s article is concerned. I’m ignorant on the matter, so perhaps someone else can enlighten.

    Mr. Rotberg was allowed to give that presentation without any time for the other side. Is that the case for any article of this nature? Can the sponsor really get up there and say anything he likes before a vote, no matter how crazy and unsourced? In the tradition of free speech, I’m sure he can, but why is only one side allowed to make such a presentation, especially when it was so riddled with errors and nothing could be brought to bear to counter the misinformation? I’m guessing that for many TMMs that may have been their introduction to the subject, and to allow them to be swayed in such a deceitful manner is not productive democracy in action–it’s propaganda.

    It’s true that citizens and others were allowed to speak eventually, but I think it would have been more balanced if someone in opposition was allowed to make a presentation as well. Maybe it would not have affected the vote, but it struck me as too biased to allow it to happen that way. Perhaps this is a question for Moderator Brown or the Selectmen, but I think it’s a procedural issue that should be looked at, not just for Article 34, but for all situations of this sort.

  2. The Washington Post did some fact checking on some of these issues.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/12/10/marco-rubios-claim-that-no-recent-mass-shootings-would-have-been-prevented-by-gun-laws/

    I suspect a lot of Rotberg’s “facts” came from “Everytown for Gun Safety”.

    Here’s some info on the “mass Shootings” map he showed:

    http://www.snopes.com/351-mass-shootings/

  3. Here’s some more info from the Washington Post about “Everytown for Gun Safety” and their bogus statistics:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/06/29/has-there-been-one-school-shooting-per-week-since-sandy-hook/

  4. The whole song and dance in Lexington also ignored the facts regarding legal gun owners stopping crimes and saving lives.

    http://www.naturalnews.com/047378_murder_sprees_armed_citizens_FBI_report.html

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