PolitiFact Georgia and the AJC Truth-O-Meter last week looked at whether state education spending has decreased over the past decade.
We also checked out whether a Georgia congressman has the distinction of being the first to call President Barack Obama a socialist. We researched whether a former Georgia chief justice ever opposed same-sex marriage. And we investigated — with a Big Mac in hand — whether there were more places to buy guns in the country than McDonald’s restaurants.
Abbreviated versions of our fact checks are below, and full versions can be found at: www.politifact.com/georgia/. The website also features full fact checks of claims from Obama’s State of the Union address and the Republican response by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
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The Rev. Markel Hutchins: “There are twice as many gun shops as McDonald’s in the United States.”
Hutchins, an Atlanta-based civil rights activist, made this claim during an interview earlier this month on a local radio station. He was repeating information from an ABC News article published in December that initially included the claim.
According to the McDonald’s website, there was 14,098 McDonald’s restaurants in the United States in 2011.
ABC reported there are 51,438 retail gun stores in America. A radio program, American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” has reported the total is about 58,000. Those numbers could include various retail outlets, pawnshops, and people who sell guns at gun shows. The Professional Gun Retailers Association believes there are probably 9,000 “real” gun stores in America — places that regularly sell the weapons year-round.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms — which keeps a monthly log of how many people and pawnbrokers are licensed to sell guns — in 2011 there were 56,059 federally licensed firearms dealers and pawnbrokers in the country, quadruple the number of McDonald’s restaurants.
To sum up, there are numbers we found that support Hutchins’ argument, but the definition of “gun shop” may change the result.
We rated the claim Mostly True.
EmpowerED Georgia: State support for local schools per pupil has decreased by at least 25 percent over the past decade.
EmpowerED Georgia, a group of parents and teachers that estimates its membership at 3,500, has a chart on its website making this claim. The group says state lawmakers have been overly supportive of private schools over public schools.
The organization found the average of state money spent on each student was $3,873 in 2002 and $2,910 in 2012 — a 25 percent decrease. Georgia State University’s Fiscal Research Center confirmed those numbers in a November report.
The larger point about a decrease in education spending is not disputed by state education officials. But they disagree with the use of state and local government price indexes because the indexes do not take into account overall inflation and the ability of taxpayers to fund the program.
EmpowerED Georgia’s math is supported by a Georgia State study. Still, there are some factors that deserve consideration when examining this claim, such as the recession’s impact on state spending and larger class sizes.
The group’s statement contains an element of truth but needs a lot of context to be fully understood.
We rated the claim as Half True.
Leah Ward Sears: “I was never against same-sex marriage.”
The former Georgia Supreme Court chief justice made this claim in a column as she praised a group called the Institute for American Values for exiting the same-sex marriage debate.
Sears told us that she’s been purposefully careful not to offer a position on same-sex marriage, particularly when she was on the bench.
Sears was accused of supporting same-sex marriage during a re-election campaign. She was also criticized by gay rights groups for joining the institute’s board, because of its president’s vocal opposition to same-sex marriage. But we could not find an instance when she had a public stance on this issue.
Her legal record while on the Georgia Supreme Court shows she has sided with the majority on rulings that have been supported and opposed by gay rights activists.
We rated the claim Mostly True.
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun: “I was the first member of Congress to call him (Barack Obama) a socialist …”
Broun, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss, made the claim in a recent fundraiser letter that surfaced this week.
PolitiFact Georgia sets the bar high when someone says they’re the “first” to make a particular statement.
Broun, a Georgia Republican, compared Obama’s policies to those of Hitler or a Marxist dictator in November 2008, but apologized a week later for making the statements. A month before that, then-Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain accused Obama of pursuing a “socialist” agenda. That same month, October 2008, then-U.S. Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio told a newspaper reporter that Obama was a socialist.
Congress consists of both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, and Obama was called a “socialist” by an Ohio senator a year before Broun actually used the term “socialist.”
We rated Broun’s claim False.