Rallying supporters in San Antonio, Hillary Clinton said Oct. 15, 2015, that she’s running for president in part "to protect our families and communities from the plague of gun violence."
Clinton, who was introduced and endorsed by Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor serving as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, went on: "Look, you know, we lose an average of 90 Americans every day because of guns."
Is that so?
Earlier in the week, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state aired the same per-day count at the Democratic presidential debate hosted by CNN. On her campaign website, Clinton says she favors more pre-purchase background checks, "cracking down on illegal gun traffickers, holding dealers and manufacturers accountable when they endanger Americans, and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers."
A subsequent check of Clinton’s 90 gun deaths by FactCheck.org, based at the University of Pennsylvania, found that while Clinton’s figure held up for 2013, the last year of available data, it is worth noting that only one-third of firearm deaths consisted of homicides; most other gun deaths counted as suicides.
At least once, Clinton has clarified her figure by mentioning suicides; according to an Oct. 7, 2015, post on her campaign website, she said in Muscatine, Iowa: "We lose between 88 and 92 Americans a day from gun violence — homicides, suicides and accidents — and we have to act."
Let’s go to the numbers.
According to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33,636 U.S. firearm deaths were recorded in 2013 — or 92 a day, on average. Some 63 percent of that year’s firearm deaths, or 21,175, were suicides, with 11,208 considered homicides and the rest classified as unintentional discharges (505), legal intervention/war (467) and undetermined (281).
We confirmed those figures and checked the numbers for the four previous years (2009-12), finding a five-year average of 89 firearm deaths a day. In that period, the low was 86 firearm deaths a day in 2009 while the 2012 and 2013 averages tied at 92.
For each year too, suicides by firearm accounted for far more deaths than homicides by firearm.
Next, we reached out to the CDC. By email, statistician Ken Kochanek said the 2013 figures remain the latest available.
To our request, Kochanek drew on the agency’s statistics to create a document showing that the rate of U.S. deaths by firearm in 2013, roughly 10.6 per 100,000 residents, exceeded the rate of 10.4 per 100,0000 residents for 1999 through 2013. The 15-year high was set in 2012 — 10.7 per 100,000 residents. The 15-year low was set in 2004 — 10.1 firearm deaths per 100,000 residents.
Asked to focus on homicides by firearm, Kochanek emailed a document indicating the 2013 rate of 3.5 homicides by firearm per 100,000 residents was less than the 3.9 homicides by firearm per 100,000 residents over the 15-year period. Over those years, the highest rate, of 4.3 homicides by firearm per 100,000 residents, was set in 2006 and the lowest rate, 3.6 homicides by firearm per 100,000 residents was set in two years, 2010 and 2011.
Clinton said: "We lose an average of 90 Americans every day because of guns."
That’s about right. But it leaves unsaid that the bulk of those deaths are suicides, not homicides. Also, in 2013, the latest year of available data, the rate of homicides by firearm was lower than the rate for 1999 through 2013.
We rate this statement Mostly True.
MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information.
Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Article, "FactChecking the Democratic Debate," FactCheck.org, Oct. 14, 2015
Reports, National Center for Health Statistics, "Deaths: Final Data for 2013," detailed tables; "Deaths: Final Data for 2012," Aug. 31, 2015; "Deaths: Final Data for 2011," July 27, 2015; "Deaths: Final Data for 2010," May 8, 2013; "Deaths: Final Data for 2009," Dec. 29, 2011; "Deaths: Final Data for 2000," Sept. 16, 2002
Emails, Kenneth D. Kochanek, statistician, Statistical Analysis & Research Team, Mortality Statistics Branch, Division of Vital Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oct. 19, 2015
Documents showing U.S. firearm deaths, all intents, 1999-2013, CDC WONDER output; U.S. firearm deaths, homicide, 1999-2013, CDC WONDER output (created and provided by email by Kenneth D. Kochanek, Oct. 19, 2015)
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.