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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher February 28, 2023

Nothing to back up claim that constipation killed seven times more people than rifles in US

If Your Time is short

  • The latest FBI count of people killed by rifles is 447, in 2021.

  • The latest tally by the federal Centers for Disease Control of deaths caused by constipation is 207, in 2020.

A social media post suggested that not being able to pull the trigger, so to speak, is far more lethal than pulling it.

"Rifles of any kind were involved in 297 deaths last year in America. Constipation killed 2,167," read a Feb. 26 post shared by the pro-gun lobbying group Virginia Citizens Defense League. 

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI were listed as the sources.

The post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. It has since been removed, though we found numerous other examples of the post being shared. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The claim is wrong.

The same claim was shared on Facebook in August and judged false by USA Today.

Featured Fact-check

The first number in the claim, 297, was the original number reported of people in the U.S. who were killed with rifles in 2018, as PolitiFact has reported. The FBI later updated that number to 306.

The latest FBI count of rifle murders was 447 in 2021.

(By comparison, 6,012 people were killed with handguns that year.)

As for deaths caused by constipation, the total was 207 in 2020, the latest year for which CDC figures are available.

The 2,167 claimed is the total constipation deaths from 1999 through 2014, as USA Today reported.

Fecal impaction — the result of severe constipation, when feces back up in the colon — can cause ulcers, colitis or obstruction of the colon, which can be fatal, according to Cleveland Clinic.

We rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Instagram, Virginia Citizens Defense League post, Feb. 26, 2023

Email, Virginia Citizens Defense League president Philip Van Cleave, Feb. 27, 2023

Email, FBI spokesperson Holly Morris, Feb. 27, 2023

USA Today, "Fact check: False claim uses misleading data to report deaths from rifles, constipation," Aug. 30, 2022

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking number of people killed by rifles and by people in US illegally," March 30, 2021

PolitiFact, "FBI data shows more deaths by ‘hands, fists, feet’ than rifles. But there’s more to know," May 27, 2022

FBI, "Murder Victims by Weapon," 2021, accessed Feb. 27, 2023

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Underlying Cause of Death" by constipation, 2020, accessed Feb. 27, 2023

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Nothing to back up claim that constipation killed seven times more people than rifles in US

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