UPDATE, 10:19 a.m. - Labrador is now saying he was referring to the number of shootings in D.C., not to the number of murders in Prince George's County.
Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County probably look the same from Idaho.
On Meet the Press a day after the tragic mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., host David Gregory was leading a discussion among several members of Congress about how the shooting of one of their colleagues and the murder of several others might change the American political scene. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., suggested the permissibility of Arizona’s gun laws might deserve a closer look.
Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who was just elected to Congress with the backing of the Tea Party (and is so new to Congress his office website doesn't appear to be set up yet), was having none of this.
“We have to be careful of this debate a little bit. Washington, D.C., last week had seven murders, and they have some of the most — strictest gun laws in, in the United States,” Labrador said, according to a transcript. “So I don't know that it's the gun laws that are going to make the differences. It's the responsibility that each individual has to, to carry guns safely.”
Now, there are plenty of differences of opinion regarding the impact gun laws have on gun crimes. But what can't be argued with is that it was Prince George's County that had seven murders last week (they’re now up to nine for the year), not the District. D.C. has had four murders so far this year. And homicides in both areas fell last year, with the District reaching a historic low point.
That doesn't change Labrador's point much. Maryland's gun laws are aren't as strict as D.C.'s, but they won't be winning praise from the National Rifle Association anytime soon. Looking at these charts from the NRA, it's easy to see that Arizona is much friendlier to gun owners than the Old Line State. And Arizona does have a lower murder rate than Maryland, according to FBI data. But correlation doesn't equal causation.
Washingtonians don't expect representatives from elsewhere to embrace the city's laws, but we do expect them to be able to read a map.
A spokesman for Labrador didn’t immediately return a voicemail message. We’ll update this post if we hear back.
Labrador's spokesman gave the following statement to NBC Washington:
“I apologize the congressman misspoke earlier today in regard to the number of homicides in the District of Columbia this year,” his spokesman Phil Hardy said later. “He was trying to make the point that senseless acts of violence have no place in American society. Regardless of where we live, we should all work together to put an end to such acts and the sadness and tragedy they inflict upon our society.”
And he told his local paper, the Idaho Statesman, that he was actually referring to the number of shootings in Washington.
Labrador meant to say there had been seven shootings in Washington during that time period, not murders, said Labrador's chief of staff, former National Rifle Association lobbyist John Goodwin. Labrador has corrected his statement with "Meet the Press."
But it still seems like Total Malarkey.