Barack Obama and the Truth-O-Meter after the Charleston murders
After the horrific South Carolina shootings, President Barack Obama mostly missed with one factual claim comparing the U.S. to other countries. He got another global comparison mostly right.
After a gunman killed nine worshippers in a historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., Obama took to the White House podium the next day to "express our deep sorrow over the senseless murders."
In his June 18, 2015, remarks from the White House, Obama said, "Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear: At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it."
A flurry of PolitiFact readers -- some of them prompted by articles objecting to Obama’s claim -- wrote the PolitiFact team in Washington, D.C. seeking a fact check.
Upshot: Such violence does occur in other countries. In at least three, indeed, there’s evidence that from 2000-2014, the rate of killings in mass-shooting events occurred at a higher per-capita rate than in the United States. The only partial support for Obama’s claim is that the U.S. per-capita gun-incident fatality rate ranks in the top third of the list of 11 countries studied.
PolitiFact rated this presidential claim MOSTLY FALSE.
Separately on June 20, 2015, Obama tweeted: "Here are the stats: Per population, we kill each other with guns at a rate 297x more than Japan, 49x more than France, 33x more than Israel."
The Guardian, a British newspaper, drew on 2007 data in a study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to create a streamlined, country-by-country table showing selected measurements. One of the metrics included in that table was homicide rate by firearm per 100,000 population.
Here are the rates for the four countries Obama cited, according to the Guardian:
United States: 2.97 per 100,000
Japan: 0.01 per 100,000
France: 0.06 per 100,000
Israel: 0.09 per 100,000
This data was a bit old and PolitiFact did find some conflicting information. Still, the United States has firearm homicide rates many times higher than those in the mentioned countries. PolitiFact rated the claim MOSTLY TRUE.