Anti-Violence Group Twists Statistics

By Brian Sikma

After publishing a dubious poll alleging that a majority of Wisconsinites are opposed to concealed carry, the group Wisconsin Anti-Violence Education EffortWAVE – has surfaced in the news again. Lately, WAVE has been pushing back against the newly effective concealed carry law suggesting that workplace violence in Wisconsin will escalate because of concealed carry. To back up their assertion, WAVE cites a North Carolina study that found that workplaces that allow weapons are 5 to 7 times more likely to become the scene of a homicide than workplaces that do not allow weapons.

PolitiFact noted that WAVE wasn’t quite telling the whole story when they altered the “workplace” statistic in the North Carolina study to apply to “workers.” A workplace may be 7 to 8 times more likely to experience gun violence if employers permit weapons on the premises, but that does not necessarily translate into a 7 to 8 times more likelihood of violence for individual workers. For this bit of tricky math and rhetorical two-step, WAVE was wacked with a “half-true” by PolitiFact.

But Politifact missed several big factors with the their review of WAVE’s new talking point initiative. When these other factors are considered, they further undermine WAVE’s credibility to address the topic of concealed carry.

As Media Trackers noted right after the legislative debate on concealed carry, WAVE is not a mere statewide grassroots organization. It is funded by the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, which underwrites multiple anti-gun lobbies in several states, including Illinois and California. Without this kind of out-of-state funding, WAVE would not exist as a Wisconsin “grassroots” organization.

A point that neither the North Carolina study, nor WAVE, have addressed is that weapons in the workplace do not necessarily relate to concealed carry. WAVE certainly hopes that is the case, but before the concealed carry law went into effect on November 1, Wisconsinites were permitted to “open carry” firearms and carry locked weapons in their vehicles. While the number of workplaces that would allow open carry would likely be very low, it is not unreasonable to believe that a number of workers carried weapons in their vehicles.

In order to “permit” a weapon to be in the workplace or in a worker’s vehicle, a company need only have no stated policy dealing with weapons. While the North Carolina study attempted to allow for this fact, it still did not conclusively prove that employee who own weapons were responsible for violent incidents. In fact, the study itself mentioned that its major flaw was that it did not or could not detail whether weapons actually present in the workplace were used in the violent incidents, or whether weapons brought in by the perpetrator from the outside were used in the incidents.

Abusing a North Carolina statistic to say that it somehow correlates to Wisconsin’s new concealed carry law is grasping at straws in hopes of rescuing an ideological position that is suffering under the scrutiny of common sense. Wisconsin workplaces are not going to become a sort of modern version of the O.K. Corral with employees fast-drawing weapons on each other as a means of settling workplace disputes. Before buying into the alarmist rhetoric, Wisconsin needs to look at who’s talking.

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