U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, was a guest on VStv's "Above the Fold" Dec. 9, talking about gun control, the economy and foreign policy. We checked some of the facts and statistics he cited on the show.

"Maine has, I think, the second-highest percentage of gun ownership in the country…."

False

It is difficult to find comprehensive data on guns in the United States because Congress passed a budget amendment in 1996 prohibiting federal funds from going toward research that would "advocate or promote gun control," but data available indicates that Maine's gun ownership rate is below the national average.

Scott Ogden, King's deputy communications director, said the statement was based on a 2012 Lewiston Sun Journal editorial that stated "Maine already has the second-highest rate of gun ownership and relatively few gun deaths." Sun Journal editors did not reply to a request for the source of that statistic by press time.

The House Committee on Appropriations issued a report this summer that explained the rationale behind the restriction which prohibits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting gun-related research:

"The Committee continues the general provision to prevent any funds provided from being spent on gun research, to include collecting data for potential future research, such as was proposed in the budget request for the National Violent Death Reporting System. The Committee notes the budget request for Gun Violence Prevention Research is not funded and would be contrary to the prohibition. The Committee reminds CDC that the longstanding general provision’s intent is to protect rights granted by the Second Amendment. The restriction is to prevent activity that would undertake activities (to include data collection) for current or future research, including under the title 'gun violence prevention,' that could be used in any manner to result in a future policy, guidelines, or recommendations to limit access to guns, ammunition, or to create a list of gun owners."

Though federal data is lacking, some academic research has been carried out into patterns of gun ownership in the U.S.

The latest figures, from a Columbia University paper published in the journal "Injury Prevention" were based on 2013 data from a nationally representative survey by the non-partisan research firm YouGov. It ranked Maine 40th in the nation, not second, with 22.6 percent of the population owning guns. Alaska had the highest percentage of gun ownership, at 62 percent. And in second place was Arkansas with 58 percent. Maine was below the national average of 29 percent found by the study.

An earlier estimate by The Daily Beast, based on the number of FBI background checks processed for gun sales over an 18-month period in 2009 and 2010 as a proportion of state population, ranked Maine 29th in the country with 11,528 background checks processed. Though this method does not reflect the total number of guns purchased in each transaction, The Daily Beast argues "statistics on background checks provide the most accurate window into the localities where the firearm industry is flourishing."

"… and one of the lowest levels of gun crime."

True

King is correct in saying Maine has a relatively low level of gun crime compared to other states, but the rate of total firearm deaths has been going up. According the the 2011 FBI Uniform Crime Report, Maine was 42nd in firearm crimes with the rate of firearm robberies at 5.8 per 100,000 people and the rate of crime-related firearm deaths at 0.9 per 100,000 people.

In 2012, The Centers for Disease Control ranked Maine 39th in the country for total firearm deaths with a rate of 9 per 100,000 people while the U.S. rate was 10.5 per 100,000 people. By 2013, Maine's rate had climbed to 10.9 per 100,000 people, surpassing the U.S. average rate of 10.4.

King's overall point was Maine has a uniquely "responsible" gun culture, as evidenced by high gun ownership and low gun crime, but because the premise that Maine has a high percentage of gun owners compared to other states is not true, his conclusion does not follow. The data is more supportive of the correlation between a lower percentage of gun ownership and a lower rate of gun crime.

"Maine's unemployment rate is 4.3 percent statewide, but in southern Maine it's probably 3.2 and in areas of northern and eastern Maine it's probably 8."

Mostly True

King's point that Maine's unemployment rate varies in different parts of the state is true, but the variation is much more pronounced town by town than regionally, and there are towns with unemployment below 3 percent in all 16 Maine counties.

According to Maine Department of Labor's Center for Workforce Research and Information, in October 2015, Somerset county, an inland county just west of the center of the state, had the highest unemployment rate at 5.4 percent. The easternmost county, Washington, comes next at 5.1 percent, followed by the northernmost, Aroostook, at 4.8 percent.

But looking at the October data by town the range is more extreme and scattered. The Forks in Somerset County had the highest unemployment rate at 60 percent. Next was Webster in Penobscot County with 30 percent; then Bancroft in Aroostook County with 25 percent. Highland Plantation, Deblois, Maxfield, Macwahoc and Caswell had unemployment rates between 15 percent and 25 percent. Towns with unemployment around 8 percent include Eastport, the easternmost town in Maine; Ashland in northern Maine;  Anson, Ashland, East Millinocket, Hartland and Burlington in central Maine; and Carthage in western Maine.

Of the 75 towns with very low unemployment, under 3 percent, 21 are in the southern counties of Cumberland and York. The rest are scattered across every county of the state. In Knox and Waldo counties, Belmont, Hope, Matinicus, Union, Vinalhaven, Warren and Washington have less than 3 percent unemployment.

Oddly, Codyville Plantation in Washington County is tied with a few other towns with the lowest unemployment in the state, 0 percent; but this is because it has a population of four and all four are employed.

This map shows the location of the towns with unemployment below 3 percent.

 

"I think the minimum wage should be $10. That would be the same level of purchasing power as when it was last raised."

False

In 2009 Maine raised its minimum wage to $7.50. That has the same buying power as $8.31 today, according to U.S. Department of Labor's inflation calculator.

The federal minimum wage was raised that year to $7.25, which has the buying power of $8.02 today

The federal minimum wage peaked (in terms of buying power) in 1968. Then it was $1.60, equal to $10.91 today. That may be what he was referring to.

King did vote to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, and issued this statement after the legislation failed to advance:

“It’s a core American principle: If you work hard, then you deserve a fair shot at making a good living — but it seems like we’re moving further and further away from what used to be such a simple truth. Far too many responsible, hardworking Americans struggle to make ends meet — even live in poverty — because the minimum wage simply isn’t keeping pace with the soaring cost of living. That’s just not right ….

"I’m going to push forward to find common ground with my colleagues and hope to strike a compromise that will increase the minimum wage. It would be shameful to walk away from this session without any progress."

 

U.S. minimum wage value over time adjusted