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Fact Check Friday: The Great Gun Debate

Guns turned in as part of a gun buyback program in Bridgeport, Conn. - Dec. 22, 2012 (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Guns turned in as part of a gun buyback program in Bridgeport, Conn. – Dec. 22, 2012 (credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Almost every week, we’ve tried to clear up the garble in Fact Check Friday on WCBS 880, with the help of factcheck.org, a nonpartisan non-profit part of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Today, our Wayne Cabot spoke with factcheck.org’s Rob Farley, who has been weighing rhetoric versus reality when it comes to guns in the wake of the massacre that left 20 students and six teachers and staff dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Is it true that there’s been a massive increase in gun sales recently?

“There has been,” Farley said. “There’s been a 64 percent increase in gun manufacturing between 2007 and 2011, during the Obama years. That’s a huge spike.”

“Manufacturing is up, and we presume that means sales are up too,” observed Cabot.

“Presumably. They’re making the guns for someone,” Farley said. “Interestingly, studies show, when they asked people about gun ownership, it looks as though there’s fewer people that own guns and so, one of two things is happening. Either people are more reluctant to tell people that they own or you’ve fewer people with lots of guns and it’s impossible to know because you don’t have to register to own a gun.”

But we do know that gun violence is down.

“Contrary to what many media reports, gun violence is down. The rate of gun murder is at the lowest point it’s been since they’ve been keeping statistics in 1981 on that. It’s about 3.6 per 100,000 people in 2010,” Farley said.

Cause and effect?

“That’s where things get tricky. There’s no way to take one group and say ‘We’re going to give this group some guns and this group not guns and see how they fare.’ And there’s not been a lot of good study on that particular issue,” Farley said.

Is that the same with the concealed carry laws?

“Well the concealed carry laws is an interesting case. There was an economist John Lott, who looked at this. He’s got a guy who wrote a book called ‘More Guns, Less Crime’ and he did some research that showed that, in states that had concealed carry laws, there was a decrease in violent crime, gun crime,” Farley said. “But the thing is there’s been a decrease in violent crime in all states, even those that don’t have concealed carry laws.”

Finally, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland said on ABC that since Columbine happened, there have been 181 of these school shootings.

“That’s a padded figure. It’s a little too high,” said Farley. “It’s about a third too high. It includes that didn’t happen on campuses and also sometimes when people brought a gun to school but there was no shooting per se.”

Those are some things to keep in mind as we hear the ongoing gun debate.

Be sure to check back next week for another session in truth telling on WCBS 880.