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PolitiFact: U.S. has more gun deaths than other large countries

The statement

"When we look at the number of murders in the United States (in) 2009, we had 9,500 people murdered. When we look around the world, we see … large countries, the U.K., Germany, Japan, had 200 or less killed in a year."

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Jan. 11, on MSNBC

The ruling

After the attack by a gunman in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead and 14 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., some politicians and pundits brought up the issue of whether stricter gun control was needed.

One of the lawmakers advocating tighter gun laws was Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who is preparing legislation to ban high-capacity gun clips such as the ones used in the Tucson attack.

In an MSNBC interview, he said: "But the fact of the matter is, when we look at the number of murders in the United States, 2009, we had 9,500 people murdered. When we look around the world, we see large companies — large countries, the U.K., Germany, Japan had 200 or less killed in a year."

We wondered whether his statistics were correct. (Lautenberg said "murders," but the context of the interview makes it clear he meant murders by guns.)

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports for 2009 list 10,224 homicides that involved a gun. So by this count, Lautenberg's number was a little low.

Mamoru Suzuki of Japan's National Research Institute of Police Science e-mailed us that there were seven gun murders in Japan during 2009.

For the United Kingdom and Germany, we had to extrapolate, taking firearm murder rates per 1,000 people, then, using population statistics, calculate the number of firearm murders. The data, from a United Nations survey of crime trends, cover 1998 to 2000, the most recent available for firearms deaths.

We found that the United Kingdom had 63 firearm murders, and Germany had 381. Experts we consulted said the figures sounded about right.

So, Japan and the United Kingdom were well within Lautenberg's stated threshold of 200 murders per year. Germany's total exceeded that threshold, but it still represented less than 4 percent of the number of killings in the United States in 2009.

Lautenberg's number of killings didn't take into account population, which can be a significant factor. But the differences are so great that it doesn't change the comparison very much.

Lautenberg, while a little low in his estimate of firearm homicides in the United States, was accurate about Japan and the United Kingdom. And Germany's number was over 200, but still lower than the United States. So we rate his claim Mostly True.

Edited for print. For more, go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: U.S. has more gun deaths than other large countries 01/14/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 9:30pm]
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