Notes: According to the Just Facts about page “The mission of Just Facts is to research and publish straightforward and thorough facts about public policy issues. To accomplish this with impartiality and excellence, we abide by Standards of Credibility to determine what constitutes a credible fact and what does not.
Reviewing this website is quite challenging due to the sheer volume of information presented. It simply is not possible to cover it all. What I did was I looked at all the policy positions presented and read sections of each and applied what I read to our methodology. Our first criteria is use of loaded words and headlines. My review shows zero use of loaded words and headlines always match the content of articles, therefore Just Facts scores 0/10 in this criteria. The second criteria we evaluate is factual reporting/sourcing. In this category Just Facts is downright impressive as everything is sourced to credible information from respected sources. Our third criteria is Story Choices (do they cover both sides). In this category Just Facts selected a wide variety of policy topics. However, in this category we found a rightward bias based on the selection of information presented. The most clear evidence for this can be seen when thoroughly reviewing their gun control research where just Just Facts supports one of three conclusions: 1) further gun control leads to increased death, 2) gun control laws do not effectively limit gun possession or 3) gun control is unconstitutional in some way. There are no facts on the JF gun control page that support the opposite opinion that further control may benefit some parts of America. JF’s one-sided view align with the political right on this issue.
The right wing bias in this case is based on selection of facts to make a case for 1) America is a dangerous place, and 2) normal citizens with guns make themselves safer by owning guns. For example, on the section on “Britain” they provide a misleading and unlikely timeline graph showing that institution of gun control laws in the UK led to persistent increases (and spikes) in total homicides. These are misleading because 1) gun-related homicides are less than 10% of UK homicides, 2) the most common method of homicide in the UK has been sharp objects (knives), 3) they did not graph gun-related homicides, and 4) the gun-related homicide levels are now the lowest since the 1970s (and much lower than since the 1997 handgun ban): See Link.
JF makes the same type of misuse of gun control timeline data in Washington DC and Chicago. Yet, they fail to report large scale summary data (Kalesan, 2016, Lancet, see below) that shows that a subset of USA gun and ammunition control laws clearly do substantially decrease gun-related deaths.
Having introduced UK statistics, JF fail to point out that in the UK (and throughout Western Europe, where guns are controlled and regulated) the gun-related homicide rate (1 per million) is radically lower than the gun-related homicide rate in the US (30 per million). In fact, the UK gun-related homicide rate is lower than the USA’s gun-related accidental-death rate (1.5 per million). So just having guns readily to hand can result accidentally in gun-related deaths that exceed what the UK view as the totality of gun tragedies.
By contrast, JF explicitly rejected due to low credibility the statement “In homes with guns, the homicide of a household member is almost 3 times more likely to occur than in homes without guns.” (Kellerman 1993, New England Journal of Medicine). The rejection of this statement is based upon inferential issues (“The study blurs cause and effect”) rather than inaccuracy. JF rightly point out that while households with a homicide were somewhat more likely to own guns (nearly half did), they are much more likely to include “bad people”, i.e. those with a history of arrest, domestic violence, or illicit drug use. Attempting to discredit the NEJM study misses the point; it is true that by buying a gun you are not inviting strangers to your house for a shoot-out, but rather, in the UK (and America) the victims of gun violence are known to their assailants in the vast majority of cases. Guns increase the lethality of impulsivity in interpersonal relationships. There is no good reason to discredit the NEJM study.
This is part of a larger pattern of ignoring the statistics on gun violence from the medical literature. For example JF fail to cite:
Kalesan, B., Mobily, M. E., Keiser, O., Fagan, J. A., & Galea, S. (2016). Firearm legislation and firearm mortality in the USA: a cross-sectional, state-level study. The Lancet, 387(10030), 1847-1855.
This study clearly shows that when comparing US states that changed their gun legislation (some increasing gun control, while other states deregulated gun control), that “stand your ground” laws increase gun deaths — in raw correlations by 50%, and in the multivariate model these laws still make a tiny (but statistically significant) increase in deaths. By contrast, firearm identification and background checks for ammunition have very strong statistical effects in reducing gun-related deaths (IRR < 0.2 in the multivariate model).
Instead of more reputable officially reported statistics (often published in medical journals), JF focus on survey based results. In their “crime and self-defense” section, JF claim that each year in the USA, there are over 1 million incidents per year where a private citizen (ie not military, police or security) ‘had used a gun “for self-protection or for the protection of property at home, work, or elsewhere.” ‘ The problems with survey based data are well known:
Cook, P. J., & Ludwig, J. (2015). Elusive Facts About Gun Violence: Where Good Surveys Go Bad. In Envisioning Criminology (pp. 165-172). Springer International Publishing.
JF admit that survey based data are problematic; yet, in their crime and self-defense section, only one statistic is based on officially reported statistics, while the other six facts discussed were based on survey data. In terms of safety they correctly state that one in every 285 Americans will be murdered in the course of their lives, which makes the USA seem extremely dangerous, but they fail to point out a reasonable comparator (based on the same type of statistics) showing that one in every 20 Americans will go to prison in their lifetime, so in America you are 15 times more likely to commit a crime and go to prison than you are to be murdered. Rather than worrying about being murdered, a much more pressing worry is your own behavior. Plainly these kinds of statistics are based on high risk sub-groups, who are not only more likely to go to prison, but are also more likely to be murdered. Likewise, at no point did they mention that the USA homicide rate has been declining for decades, and that the rate is now as low as it was in the 1950s.
All of JF’s facts on background checks imply that background checks: 1) are incorrect and prevent people from obtaining guns, 2) are ineffective and allowed terrorists or high risk individuals to obtain guns, or 3) are extensive and are already preventing enough gun purchases. Ammunition purchases are currently restricted (you cannot sell ammo to people you know are convicted criminals), but in most states there is no current requirement to do background checks for ammunition. Yet, as stated above (Kalesan 2016 Lancet) background checks for ammunition purchase is effective at lowering gun-related deaths.
In conclusion, while it is true that all the facts listed on JF are validated or peer-reviewed in some way, JF do not attempt to report a balanced view of the totality of information, they do not include information that disagrees with their preferred conclusions, and they present facts (especially time series) selectively in such a way that those very facts seem to support the opposite of what the full data really support. Based on not presenting research and facts from both sides we score this 6/10. Our last criteria is political affiliation which looks at a combination of ownership, funding and the general tone of the information. The owner of this website is James D. Agresti who also operates the website Just Facts Daily that we have rated as also having a right-center bias. Mr. Agresti is also author of the book Rational Conclusions, evidencing factual support for the Bible across a broad array of academic disciplines. Mr. Agresti’s Christian political bias is evident on the Just Facts Daily website, but less so here. Just Facts is a Non-Profit. For political affiliation we rate Just Facts 6/10 right, based on ownership bias and demonstrated bias on the sister site. When added up this website scores 3.5 Right, which falls within the Right-Center category. (3/4/2017) Updated (D. Van Zandt 5/29/2017)