Last week, Facebook announced that it would ban former president Donald Trump from its platform for at least two years.
The same day I read that story, I saw a shared post of a photo of someone holding a sign that read:
"Last year, handguns killed:
10 people in Japan.
50 in Great Britain.
47 in Switzerland.
611 in Canada.
105 in Israel.
41 in Sweden.
38,658 in the United States."
Underneath that list the phrase "God bless America" was positioned above a pistol decorated with the American flag's stars and stripes.
At the very bottom was the punchline: "Stop handguns before they stop you."
Everyone has a right to their own opinion about gun control, but nobody has a right to represent false information as fact. Isn't that what Facebook's new protocols say?
There is so much factual error in the sign's data that it's hard to know where to start in correcting it. A version of this post has been around since at least 2012, and possibly earlier (some versions included West Germany, which hasn't existed in decades). So much for any notion of nonpolitical fidelity to factuality from Facebook.
If "last year" on the current version is supposed to be 2020, gun data isn't compiled yet.
The latest year for which gun-related deaths are available is 2019, in which the total number was 38,355, which also included 23,941 suicides. But that sum included all firearms, not just handguns.
Handguns typically represent about two-thirds of the 11,000 or so firearm murders committed annually in the U.S.
Out of the 195 countries in the world today, the selection of six countries is hardly representative of anything. And why those handpicked half-dozen? A true analysis would pick perhaps the top six countries, determined not by whole numbers (which are inaccurate if populations vary) but by rate per static population denominator.
In addition, that analysis could be valuably enhanced by comparing gun homicide rate against gun ownership rate, in order to confirm or dispel the notion that higher gun possession is directly related to more gun fatalities.
The 10 nations with the worst firearm homicide rate are El Salvador, Jamaica, Eswatini, Honduras, Venezuela, Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico and South Africa.
The premise of gun-control advocates is that more guns translate into more gun crime, but in looking at the nations with the highest level of gun homicides, that's not the picture that emerges at all.
El Salvador is 56th among nations in guns per 100 inhabitants. The U.S. gun ownership rate is 21 times higher than El Salvador's, and yet El Salvador's gun homicide rate is 15 times ours.
Americans own way more guns, but kill each other with them far less frequently than El Salvadorans do. The same goes in comparison with Jamaica (46th in gun ownership), Eswatini (54th), Honduras (41st) and the rest. None of the worst gun homicide nations appear among the top 20 nations ranked for gun ownership.
If the sign on that Facebook post had featured the most fatal firearm offender nations, it would have looked like this:
"Gun homicides per 100,000 population:
66.60 in El Salvador.
38.20 in Jamaica.
37.16 in Eswatini.
28.65 in Honduras.
26.48 in Venezuela.
22.91 in Brazil.
4.46 in the United States."
Another valuable analytical approach would be to cross-reference homicidal firearm rates with immigration sources. After all, if we think gun crime is already a problem here (and it is), it doesn't make much sense to import people from places where it's a lot worse.
We could create a gun-culture responsibility ratio to score nations: Divide the gun homicide rate by the gun ownership rate. The highest-scoring nations would be those whose citizens own more guns, and behave more lawfully with them. Low-scoring nations would be those where fewer guns are in circulation, but are used criminally at higher rates.
It might be prudent immigration policy to put a moratorium on places where the ratio was above a certain level. A good maximum number might be 0.5.
Using such a metric, El Salvador's score would be 11.5. All the top-10 gun homicide nations would score way too high for immigration approval, as would a number of other countries in Latin America.
The U.S. score would be 0.04, and Canada's only 0.014. Comparing countries using such a gun responsibility ratio--where gun crime relative to existing guns is the measure--brings some balancing perspective to a subject that is always so savagely sensationalized.
The original Facebook poster's picture had been shared 41,000 times and counting, and it's impossible to know how many times it was reshared on other social media platforms like Twitter and other applications or websites such as Pinterest. Or how many people have been misinformed by it.
What I do know is that, unlike Trump, it's still up on Facebook, and still being shared every couple of minutes, despite its blatant falsity.
Move over, Fakebook moniker. Two-Facebook has arrived.
Dana D. Kelley is a freelance writer from Jonesboro.