PunditFact: Sunday news show debates on poverty and on guns

The Sunday news shows had a little something for everyone, with talk about the budget deal in Washington, the anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, income inequality and even PolitiFact's Lie of the Year award.

Panelists on Fox News Sunday and ABC's This Week both took time Sunday to discuss President Barack Obama's promise that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it," which PolitiFact judged to be the most significant lie of 2013.

"It was a terrible mistake for him to say what he did," said Robert Reich, a Democrat who served as secretary of the U.S. Labor Department for President Bill Clinton.

Later on the show, Reich joined former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a discussion about poverty in the United States.

Reich said part of the problem is that Republicans in Congress block proposals being pushed by Democrats and Obama. Gingrich called Reich's point "baloney."

"Every major city which is a center of poverty is run by Democrats," Gingrich said to counter Reich. "Every major city."

That's not true, according to a PunditFact review.

PunditFact crunched Census Bureau numbers for the 50 largest U.S. cities. Of the five cities with the largest percentage of people living below the poverty line — about $11,500 for an individual — three were run by Democrats (Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee) and two were run by Republicans (Miami and Fresno, Calif.).

Among the 20 cities with the largest percentage of people living below the poverty line, Democrats do control 17. But Gingrich said "every major city." We rated his claim Mostly False.

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace used the one-year anniversary of the Newtown shooting to highlight the gun debate.

Mark Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, advocated for a failed Senate bill that would expand background checks on gun purchases. But Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, dismissed the Senate legislation.

"The background check is futile," Pratt said. "Something like 42 (people during the) last year … were prosecuted for trying to buy a gun with a criminal record out of 11 million."

Pratt's basic numbers are a bit off — though not by that much. But he ignores two critical points.

First, the figures do not include local charges in states that conduct their own checks. As PolitiFact noted earlier this year while conducting a similar fact-check on comments from Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., that's likely to increase the total number of prosecutions.

Ronald Frandsen, grants administrator for the Regional Justice Information Service, found that in the four states that voluntarily report local cases — Colorado, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Virginia — 1,520 arrests were noted. Another 17 states that conduct background checks themselves were not included.

Second, Pratt is ignoring all the individuals who were denied weapons up front because they could not pass a background check.

More than 150,000 applications to purchase a firearm or obtain a permit were blocked in 2010, according to federal data.

Pratt made a bold claim like the system is "futile" but left out the fact that thousands of individuals were denied a firearm because of a background check. For that omission, we rated his claim Half True.

Times staff writers Julie Kliegman and Steve Contorno contributed to this report. Aaron Sharockman is the editor of PunditFact.com.

The statement

"Every major city which is a center of poverty is run by Democrats. Every major city."

Newt Gingrich, in comments on ABC's "This Week"

The ruling

PunditFact ruling: Mostly False
It's not every major city. In fact, two of the top 5 in terms of poverty are run by Republicans. We rate Gingrich's claim Mostly False.

The statement

A gun "background check is futile. Something like 42 (people during the) last year … were prosecuted for trying to buy a gun with a criminal record out of 11 million."

Larry Pratt, in comments on "Fox News Sunday"

The ruling

PunditFact ruling: Half True
Pratt leaves out local data, which would increase the number, and ignores that more than 150,000 people were stopped from purchashing a firearm because of a background check. We rate his claim Half True.

PunditFact: Sunday news show debates on poverty and on guns 12/15/13 [Last modified: Sunday, December 15, 2013 11:17pm]

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