In the wake of nation's latest mass shooting, what we know about guns from five fact-checks

A mass shooting occurred on Sept. 19, 2018 at a software company in Middleton, Wis., near Madison. (Keegan Kyle/USA Today Network-Wisconsin)
A mass shooting occurred on Sept. 19, 2018 at a software company in Middleton, Wis., near Madison. (Keegan Kyle/USA Today Network-Wisconsin)
A mass shooting occurred on Sept. 19, 2018 at a software company in Middleton, Wis., near Madison. (Keegan Kyle/USA Today Network-Wisconsin)
A mass shooting occurred on Sept. 19, 2018 at a software company in Middleton, Wis., near Madison. (Keegan Kyle/USA Today Network-Wisconsin)

Updated Nov. 9, 2018

As another community mourns the victims of the latest mass shooting in the United States, this one at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif., that left 12 dead, the nation’s attention again turns to the issue of guns.

According to NBC News, the Thousand Oaks attack is the 12th mass shooting since an Oct. 27, 2018, deadly assault at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 people dead.  Based on data from the Gun Violence Archive, NBC compiled a listing of mass shootings, defined as "an incident with four or more victims shot." The tally is 79 shot, with 23 deaths:

  1.     Nov. 7: Thousand Oaks, Ca., 23 shot and 13 deaths

  2.     Nov. 3: Watertown, N.Y., 5 shot and 0 deaths

  3.     Nov. 2:  Long Beach, Ca., 4 shot and 0 deaths

  4.     Nov. 2 Tallahassee, Fla., 8 shot and 3 deaths

  5.     Nov. 1: Springfield, Mo., 4 shot and 2 deaths

  6.     Nov. 1: Minneapolis, Mn., 5 shot and 0 deaths

  7.     Oct. 31: Detroit, Mich., 4 shot and 1 deaths

  8.     Oct. 30: Vallejo, Ca., 5 shot and 2 deaths

  9.     Oct. 30: Los Angeles, 5 shot and 0 deaths

  10.     Oct. 29: Riverside, Ca., 7 shot and 0 deaths

  11.     Oct. 28: El Dorado, Ark., 4 shot and 2 deaths

  12.     Oct. 27: Memphis, Tenn., 5 shot and 0 deaths      

Wisconsin has seen its share of mass shootings, including 2012 shootings at Oak Creek’s Sikh Temple that left seven people dead and Azana Spa in Brookfield where three women were killed by a gunman.

Following a shooting a Middleton, Wis., software company Sept. 19, 2018, that left four people wounded and the gunman dead, PolitiFact Wisconsin reported on "What we know about guns" based on fact-checks:

Here are things we know about guns based on five fact checks we’ve done in 2018.

Guns more likely to be used to assault friend, relative or acquaintance than to fend off intruder.

In the Democratic primary campaign for governor, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said: "If there is a firearm available, it is 17 times more likely to be used either for suicide or for assaulting a friend, relative, an acquaintance than it is to be used in fending off an intruder."

Our rating was Half True.

Soglin was on point in stating that a gun is much more likely to be used for a suicide, assault or homicide than used in self-defense, but was on less solid ground when it comes to stating exactly how many times more likely. That depends on the study, many of which do not differentiate between known and unknown victims. What’s more, recent research is limited.

Paul Ryan played a role in blocking some, but not all action to strengthen gun laws.

Giffords PAC, which fights gun violence, attacked the U.S. House speaker by claiming he "has blocked all action to strengthen our gun laws."

Our rating was Mostly False.

The political action committee cited a dozen gun-control measures that didn’t get to a vote in the House under Ryan. So, it’s clear he did not move to bring those measures to the floor. But that’s not the same as the Janesville Republican himself blocking the measures, given that other lawmakers, such as committee chairs, also have such power. Also, a bill that would strengthen background checks did pass the House under Ryan.

Clarifying how often guns are sold without background checks.

While visiting Milwaukee to raise money for Wisconsin Democrats, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock -- a possible Democratic contender for president in 2020 -- declared: "A quarter of our guns are sold outside of the background checks."

Our rating was Mostly False.

The latest study that surveyed gun owners on the topic found that, among gun owners who had acquired a gun in some way within the previous two years, 22 percent had done so without a background check. But that takes into account people who acquired guns either by purchasing them, or by simply receiving them, for example as a gift. Among those surveyed who had purchased a gun within the previous two years, only 13 percent said they had done so without a background check.

Support for universal background checks is nearly universal.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said 97 percent of gun owners support universal background checks.

Our rating was Mostly True.

The figure was correct for the latest national poll that asked about requiring background checks for all gun purchases. The only clarification was that the respondents weren’t all necessarily gun owners, but rather lived in a household where they or someone else own a gun.

A mixed bag when it comes to laws aimed at preventing people with mental illness from getting guns.

Ryan said the nation has "laws on the books designed to prevent people with mental illnesses from getting firearms."

Our rating was Half True.

A federal law, and some state laws, do prohibit people adjudicated as "mentally defective" or involuntarily committed to a mental health facility from possessing a gun. But experts said that standard includes people who do not pose a danger to others. And it does not account for a much larger set of people who might be dangerous but have not been diagnosed with, or treated for, a serious mental illness.