Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Truth-O-Meter hands down mixed results on gun claims

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg speaks on the Senate floor on April 26.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg speaks on the Senate floor on April 26.

As Newtown, Conn., continues mourning the 20 children and seven adults shot and killed Friday, the gun debate is heating up in New Jersey and across the nation.

Adam Lanza, 20, is accused of killing his mother at the home they shared. He then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School with two handguns and an assault-style rifle, and killed 26 people there before taking his own life, according to reports. The mass shooting occurred just five months after a gunman opened fire at an Aurora, Colo. theater, killing 12 and injuring 58.

Now, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is again calling for a federal ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, the kind used in the Connecticut shootings.

Lautenberg has gone up against the Truth-O-Meter twice on gun-related matters, as have other New Jersey Democrats. Let’s recap some gun claims here.

In July, Lautenberg claimed in an op-ed piece on NorthJersey.com that "Guns have murdered more Americans here at home in recent years than have died on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. In support of the two wars, more than 6,500 American soldiers have lost their lives. During the same period, however, guns have been used to murder about 100,000 people on American soil."

Although his numbers were on target, three experts told PolitiFact New Jersey that the senator’s premise was flawed because he used raw numbers to compare two different populations. Experts also noted that Lautenberg referred to American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan when many more have died in both wars. His claim was rated Half True.

Earlier, in April, Lautenberg said on the Senate floor that a loophole in federal gun laws "allows a convicted abuser to walk into a gun show and walk out with a gun, no questions asked."

The statement’s True. Gun laws can vary from state to state, and some states have closed that loophole. Lautenberg, however, was speaking in the context of federal law, which does not require individuals who are not federally licensed to perform background checks before a gun transaction.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th) weighed in on gun violence in July, shortly after the Colorado theater incident.

Holt said in an e-mail newsletter that "as we watch the news from Colorado with horror and sympathy for the families, we should remember that each day more than 80 Americans are killed by gunfire, unnecessary tragedies. Arguments that gun safety legislation won’t help the situation seem to me illogical or blindly ideological."

Holt’s statement was Half True. While it’s accurate that more than 80 Americans are killed by gunfire daily, more than half of those are suicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since Holt made the statement in the context of commenting on a mass shooting, his statement suggested those victims were shot by somebody else, not themselves.

Sen. Bob Menendez also made a guns statement after the Colorado shootings, claiming that under federal law, "we do not have any limitation on the number of guns and bullets we can buy."

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed the senator’s statement. Three states, including New Jersey, limit the number of handguns a person can buy in a 30-day period, but there are no limits under federal law on the purchase of firearms and ammunition. Menendez’s statement was True.

In November 2011, Rep. Bill Pascrell (then D-8th) spoke on the House floor against a bill requiring states that allow people to carry concealed weapons to recognize other states’ valid concealed carry permits. In opposing the bill, Pascrell said, "We haven't had any legislation which took away one gun in the past 20 years from anybody in this country -- not one."

Pascrell’s claim was Half True. Persons convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense are required to surrender their weapon to a "third party who may lawfully receive and possess them, such as their attorney, a local police agency, or a federal firearms dealer," according to the ATF’s website. An ATF spokesperson also told us a person’s actions are what would result in having to surrender the weapon, not the law itself.

To see all Truth-O-Meter rulings on gun issues, go to http://bit.ly/SMszjW.

To comment on this story, go to NJ.com.