Friday, November 28th, 2014

Fact-checking claims about guns and violence

Emergency personnel use a stretcher to carry a shooting victim outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and others were shot as the congresswoman was meeting with constituents.
Emergency personnel use a stretcher to carry a shooting victim outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 where U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and others were shot as the congresswoman was meeting with constituents.

The shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., has reopened the debate over guns and violence in America. We've published three fact-checks related to that debate.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.: In an interview on MSNBC on Jan. 11, 2011, Lautenberg said, "When we look at the number of murders in the United States (in) 2009, we had 9,500 people murdered. When we look around the world, we see ... large countries, the U.K., Germany, Japan had 200 or less killed in a year."

We found that Lautenberg was actually a little low in his estimate of firearm homicides in the U.S. for 2009, and that he was accurate in saying that Japan and the United Kingdom had fewer than 200 firearm murders. Germany's number is actually higher than 200, but it is still dramatically lower than the U.S. So we rated his statement Mostly True.

Sarah Palin. In a Jan. 12, 2011, video statement, Palin responded to criticism of her political action committee's decision during the 2010 campaign to mark Giffords' district on a map with what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun sight. She noted that she has publicly condemned violence.

"As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, 'We know violence isn't the answer. When we "take up our arms", we're talking about our vote.' Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next," Palin said.

We found that she did indeed say that during a campaign stop with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in Tucson. So we rated her statement True.

Pierre Thomas, ABC News senior justice correspondent. On the Jan 9, 2011, edition of ABC News' This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Thomas said that the Tucson shootings "reflect a disturbing trend," Thomas said. "Mass shootings have become commonplace since the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007," in which a single gunman killed 32 and wounded many more. "There have been dozens of incidents where three or more people have been fatally wounded. Hundreds have died."

We found that Thomas was correct to say that "there have been dozens of incidents where three or more people have been fatally wounded," and he was also correct that "hundreds have died" in such incidents. But we determined that it was a stretch to say that killings of three or more people are now "commonplace," and it's not clear that there's been a distinct trend upward, either since 2007 or over the past three decades. So we rated his statement Half True.