Former National Rifle Association President David Keene said on Tuesday that hammers kill more people than assault weapons in the U.S.
“You know, last year and the year before according to FBI statistics, more people in this country were beaten to death than were killed by long arms—so called assault weapons—the government sought to ban,” he said during an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “More people were killed with hammers than were killed with those guns.”
Let’s check those claims.
FBI crime data doesn’t specifically define “assault weapons.” But the number of murders in 2012 committed by beating (aka “personal weapons”) was 678. That outpaced murders by rifles (322) and shotguns (303) combined. Although the categories are ill-defined, Keene may be right on the first point.
Keene’s claim about hammers, however, is wrong. And it’s not even close. In 2012, 8,855 people were murdered by firearms, according to the FBI’s numbers. By comparison, 518 people were murdered by blunt objects (defined not just as hammers, but clubs and other similar items too). Even if you just compare blunt objects to long arms, more people were killed with the latter than the former last year.
Most importantly, the vast majority of murders in America are committed with guns. Firearms made up nearly 70 percent of all homicides in 2012. More people were murdered with guns last year than by beating, blunt objects, knives, poison, and explosives combined.
Accidental deaths with firearms were also much more common than blunt-object deaths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 606 people were killed in accidents involving guns in 2010. That number jumped to 851 in 2011. There’s no data available on blunt objects in 2011. But the previous year? Only four people died in accidents with “nonpowered hand tools,” and one person was killed by accident with a blunt object.
The hammer-to-gun comparison has long been made by gun-rights advocates. The problem is, it doesn’t add up.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.