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By Eric Stirgus February 21, 2013

Gun claim goes awry

(Update: Those pesky, yet observant, PolitiFact Georgia readers. Several took note of our recent fact-check of state Sen. Bill Jackson. We looked at this precise statement: "More murders were committed last year with hammers than with shotguns, rifles or AK-47s." That statement, which appeared in news stories,  is accurate, according to FBI homicide statistics. Trouble is there is a video of Jackson’s statement. And in that video he uses the word "pistols" instead of "rifles." That changes the entire thrust of his statement. We called the reporter who wrote the initial news story. He checked his notes and agrees he got the quote wrong. Our readers were correct. And we dedicate the following revised fact-check to their keen observation skills.)

Some gun control critics are using a similar talking point in the national debate over this issue.

"There’s more with hammers than with shotguns and pistols and AK-47s," said state Sen. Bill Jackson, a Republican from Appling.

PolitiFact Georgia wondered if Jackson’s remarks were accurate, or was he attempting to make a political point with a bogus claim?

We quickly discovered our partners at other PolitiFact operations have examined similar claims before. Here’s what they found:

In January, some Facebook posts began to circulate that were critical of the White House’s proposal to restrict the availability of some weapons.

"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?" it read.

The FBI figures also showed that 356 people were killed with shotguns.

PolitiFact reviewed 2011 FBI data on the types of weapons used to commit murders. The numbers posted on Facebook nearly matched the FBI data. The Facebook post of how many people were killed with hands or feet was two below the FBI total of 728.

A few weeks later, our partners at PolitiFact Texas examined a similar claim from that state’s attorney general, Greg Abbott.

"FBI: More people killed with hammers & clubs each year than rifles," Abbott said in a Twitter post.

He supplied a link to a Jan. 3, 2013, Fox News commentary piece that originated on the conservative website and referred to FBI murder statistics from 2005 through 2011.

PolitiFact Texas noted Abbott used selective data to base his claim. That said, PolitiFact Texas noted, it is correct that FBI data indicates that in 2011, more people were killed with "clubs and hammers" than with any type of rifle. They rated his claim True.

At first hearing, Jackson’s claim sounds similar. But when you note that he includes pistols, or handguns, in his comparison,  the similarities begin to fade.

Here are the 2011 FBI totals (the most recent year available) for the types of weapons used in homicides:

Handguns:        6,220

Rifles:            323

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Shotguns:        356

Blunt Objects:        496

As you can see, there’s a big difference between the handgun total and the rifles total and the total for shotguns. Webster's defines a pistol as a handgun. U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, an Athens Republicans, made a similar claim to Jackson, which we rated Pants on Fire.

To sum up, Jackson said there were more people killed with hammers than shotguns and pistols and AK-47s. There were actually 12 times as many people killed with handguns in 2011 than with blunt objects like hammers. Jackson’s claim is way off.

Mark Twain once said the difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter - it’s the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning.

And where there’s lightning, things are bound to get hot -- we said that.  

We rate Jackson’s claim Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

FBI 2011 Expanded Homicide Data Table 8.

Georgia Public Broadcasting, Georgia Senate video archives, One hour, 47 minute mark, Feb. 11, 2013.

Morris News Service, "Georgia senator: Hammers, frying pans top guns for murders," Feb. 11, 2013.

PolitiFact, "Facebook posts say more people were murdered with knives, ‘hands or feet’ or ‘clubs or hammers’ than with any type of rifle," Jan. 8, 2013.

PolitiFact Texas, "Greg Abbott says according to FBI, more people are killed each year with clubs, hammers than with rifles," Jan. 30, 2013.

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Gun claim goes awry

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