The Truth-O-Meter Says:
Facebook posts

In 2011, more people were murdered with knives, "hands or feet" or "clubs and hammers" than with any type of rifle.

Facebook posts on Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 in on Facebook

Facebook post says more people were murdered with knives, body parts or blunt objects than with rifles

Gun-rights advocates have mounted an aggressive social-media campaign to blunt the popularity of the White House’s efforts to advance new restrictions on guns.

One reader forwarded us a statistics-heavy Facebook post that echoes others we’ve received. It says, "Facts gun control advocates don’t want you to know. According to the FBI, in 2011, 1,694 were murdered with knives, 726 with hands or feet, 496 with clubs or hammers, 323 with rifles of any type. But Obama wants to ban semi-automatic rifles?"

We should first note that there is significant disagreement over what is, or should be, considered "an assault weapon." For instance, even though the Facebook post references Obama’s intention to "ban semi-automatic rifles," California law already includes some types of handguns and shotguns in its definition of "assault weapon."

That said, we’ll take a look at the number of deaths caused by rifles. To check the post, we looked at the 2011 edition of the FBI’s annual "Crime in the United States" report. The report breaks down the types of weapons used in murder. These are the statistics for 2011, the most recent year available:

 

Handguns

6,220

Rifles

323

Shotguns

356

Other guns

97

Firearms, type not stated

1,587

Knives or cutting instruments

1,694

Blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.)

496

Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc.)

728


The Facebook post and the FBI stats are closely in tune. Except for a minor typo in the Facebook post’s number for deaths by hands, fists or feet, the numbers are accurate.

The number cited for rifles was somewhat less precise. While it’s true that the FBI counted 323 murders by rifles, the agency also counted 1,587 murders by an undetermined type of firearm and 97 by "other guns." If gun usage in these two categories followed the same pattern as other gun homicides, that would add another 75 or so murders by rifle, making an estimate for the number of rifle murders about 400, rather than 323.

Still, the larger point holds: Murders by knives, blunt objects and body parts each individually outweighed those committed using a rifle.

We should note that while the Facebook post’s comparison is accurate as far as it goes, it does ignore the single biggest category of weapons used in murders -- handguns. Handguns were used in 6,220 cases, or 72 percent of all firearm murders in 2011 and slightly under half of all murders using any kind of weapon that year.

This caveat illustrates how the selection and framing of statistics can be used to bolster one side or the other in the gun debate.

Our ruling

The post uses data selectively, ignoring the significant role of handguns in gun violence. But the statistics it mentions are solid. FBI data backs up the Facebook post’s claim that in 2011, more people were murdered with knives, "hands or feet" or "clubs and hammers" than with any type of rifle. We rate the statement True.

Advertisement
About this statement:

Published: Friday, January 18th, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.

Subjects: Guns

Sources:

PBS Newshour, "NRA President David Keene Rejects White House Gun Control Approach," Jan. 15, 2013

FBI, "Crime in the United States, 2011 (Expanded Homicide Data Table 8 -- Murder Victims by Weapon, 2007–2011," accessed Jan. 16, 2013

Washington Post, "Is it fair to call them ‘assault weapons’?" Jan. 17, 2013

New York Times, "Even Defining ‘Assault Rifles’ Is Complicated," Jan. 17, 2013

California Code: Section 12276.1

Written by: Louis Jacobson
Researched by: Louis Jacobson
Edited by: Bill Adair

How to contact us:

We want to hear your suggestions and comments.

For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.

For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.

Browse The Truth-O-MeterTM:
Subscribe: