On Friday morning, Hillary Clinton posted one of the stupidest tweets I have ever seen. Clinton -- or more likely her staff -- sent out a venn diagram (the images with overlapping circles) likely aiming to illustrate wide support among both gun owners and average Americans for the "universal background checks" talking point.
The funny thing is, Clinton's tweet could be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, most of which are at odds with her likely meaning. The venn diagram could mean:
1. Gun owners are not American.
Venn diagrams typically feature two groups without universal overlap to illustrate the degree of overlap between them. If "gun owners" and "Americans" are two different groups, then who exactly is Clinton talking about? Gun owners in Canada? And how is that at all relevant?
2. 90 percent of Americans and 83 percent of gun owners do not support universal background checks.
This interpretation, the exact opposite of what Clinton's tweet likely means, is the most basic way of understanding this diagram. After all, the parts of the circles which do not overlap are entitled "90 percent of Americans" and "83 percent of gun owners," while the overlap of the remaining 10 percent and 17 percent is captioned "support universal background checks." Maybe Hillary is admitting that her liberal talking point is actually unpopular!
3. Some part of 90 percent of Americans and 83 percent of gun owners support universal background checks, but Clinton's staff just doesn't know how big that number is.
If the full circle (including the overlap) is "90 percent of Americans" and "83 percent of gun owners," respectively, then the point at which they overlap and "support universal background checks" cannot be determined by this diagram. That makes it essentially meaningless.
Next Page: Why this is a bad political move on Clinton's part.
Even assuming the venn diagram means that 90 percent of Americans and 83 percent of gun owners support universal background checks, there are still three more problems with Clinton's claim to speak for "the vast majority of Americans" in telling Congress to "get this done."
4. Even if the "vast majority of Americans" support "universal background checks," they don't necessarily want the federal government to enforce it.
Americans understand that there is a difference between state governments and the federal government. Assuming Clinton's statistics are correct -- which itself is a long shot -- the Americans and gun owners who support this policy may not want the federal government to enforce it. Imagine the VA scandal, but for firearm background checks. Americans like high educational standards, but they don't all support Common Core.
5. Background checks do not push down murder rates.
Many states have had universal background checks for gun owners, and a 2013 study showed that such laws made little difference when it comes to murder rates. In fact, even gun confiscation would not have any effect on roughly one third of murders, because those are committed without firearms.
If Hillary Clinton wanted to seem like a reasonable and respectable voice, in contrast to the presumptive Republican nominee, this is not the way to do that. Not only does she seem to call gun owners un-American, but she also seems to have an incompetent staff. Not exactly the best alternative to a political neophyte. Hillary's tweet will accomplish one thing, though -- it's likely to push Americans who care about the Second Amendment even further into Trump's camp. In light of this, it just further props up the NRA endorsement.