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In the wake of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., Americans took to social media to express their views on guns and violence.
A reader sent us one Facebook post about the extent of gun violence in the United States. It said, "USA is #1 in gun violence. Nearly 100,000 people get shot every year. That's 270 people a day and 87 dead because of gun violence every day."
In this item, we’ll look at the second half of that claim: "Nearly 100,000 people get shot every year. That's 270 people a day and 87 dead."
We turned to statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; experts in the field told us it keeps the most reliable statistics on the subject. The CDC collects two sets of relevant data.
The first is data for deaths by guns, which is included in an annual report about deaths of all types during calendar year 2009. The numbers for gun deaths is broken down into several categories:
Suicide: 18,735 deaths
Homicide: 11,493 deaths
Unintentional: 554 deaths
Legal interventions: 333 deaths
Undetermined: 232 deaths
Total: 31,347 deaths
The second data set tracks non-fatal injuries by guns. According to the CDC, there were 73,505 non-fatal firearm injuries in 2010. (We will ignore an additional 13,851 non-fatal injuries from BB or pellet guns.)
How accurate is the Facebook post?
If you add together the gun deaths and the non-fatal gun injuries, you get 104,852 people shot every year. That’s very close to what the Facebook post said. The Facebook post was also close in its daily averages -- 287 people shot every day, and 86 deaths by gun every day.
There’s one area, however, in which the Facebook post could have benefited from additional context. It says that "nearly 100,000 people get shot every year," which to us suggests that a victim is being shot by someone else. In reality, a significant majority of gun deaths comes from self-inflicted firearm wounds.
If you ignore the suicides -- and if you assume that relatively few people survive a suicide attempt with a firearm (we couldn’t find any hard data on that question) -- then the number of people who got shot, either fatally or non-fatally, was about 86,000, or roughly 235 a day. That’s lower than the Facebook post indicated. And the daily number of firearm deaths would be substantially lower -- 35 per day, rather than the 87 cited in the Facebook post.
The numbers in the Facebook post are close to accurate, as long as you make one major assumption -- that suicides count as "get(ting) shot." We think that assumption is debatable, but there is no question that at least 100,000 people did die or become injured from firearms. On balance, we rate this claim Mostly True.
Facebook post, received by PolitiFact July 21, 2012
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Deaths: Final Data for 2009," Dec. 29, 2011
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Reports (main search page), accessed July 23, 2012
Email interview with Daniel W. Webster, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, July 23, 2012
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