Fact-checking Democratic lawmakers’ claims on guns and gun violence in wake of deadly mass shootings

Clockwise from top left: U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.
Clockwise from top left: U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.

The news of a deadly mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater ripped through the nation last month. Then, two weeks later, another gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

Both tragedies have focused the national conversation on guns and gun violence. In New Jersey, several Democratic lawmakers have argued for strengthening the country’s gun control laws, citing death tolls from gun-related murders. Other politicians have criticized opponents for their position on firearms.

Here, PolitiFact New Jersey recaps several gun-related claims from Democratic lawmakers that we have tested recently on the Truth-O-Meter.

Daily death toll

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt sent out an e-mail newsletter on July 20 that stated,, "as we watch the news from Colorado with horror and sympathy for the families, we should remember that each day more than 80 Americans are killed by gunfire, unnecessary tragedies. Arguments that gun safety legislation won’t help the situation seem to me illogical or blindly ideological."

It’s true that more than 80 people die daily in firearm-related incidents, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But suicides represent a significant majority of that figure and that’s an important detail Holt’s statement lacks.

For that reason, the congressman’s statement got a Half True.

‘No federal limits’

At a July 24 news conference in Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez pointed out how, under federal law, "we do not have any limitation on the number of guns and bullets we can buy."

While three states, including New Jersey, limit the number of handguns one can purchase in a 30-day period, there are no limits under federal law on the purchase of firearms and ammunition.

Federal regulations only require reporting multiple gun sales in certain cases.

Menendez earned a True for this statement.

Worse than war?

"Here are the facts: Guns have murdered more Americans here at home in recent years than have died on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. In support of the two wars, more than 6,500 American soldiers have lost their lives. During the same period, however, guns have been used to murder about 100,000 people on American soil," U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who is pushing to reinstate a federal ban on high-capacity ammunition clips, said in a July 30 op-ed article posted on NorthJersey.com.

PolitiFact New Jersey learned that although the senator’s numbers were mainly on target, his overall point was flawed because he compares two very different populations.

Lautenberg’s statement landed at Half True.

‘Not for guns’

Upendra Chivukula, an assemblyman representing Somerset and Middlesex counties, and a congressional hopeful, addressed the issue of firearms in a recent interview.

Chivukula, who hopes to oust U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance this November, said his opponent has reversed his position on gun control.

"One of the key things about Leonard Lance is that in 2008, when you look at [the] Project Vote Smart website, he was not for guns," Chivukula said in an Aug. 5 interview with the liberal blog Blue Jersey. "Now he has gone too far to the right, saying that you can carry concealed weapons in national parks, which is mostly dangerous for the people who are visiting the national park."

There’s an element of truth to this claim: Lance voted to repeal a ban on carrying weapons in national parks in 2009, as long as the gun owner complies with the laws of the state where the park is located.

But to suggest Lance flip-flopped in taking that position is misleading.
That’s why this claim got a Mostly False.

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