Fact Check: The Statistics On This Protest Sign Are NOT From 'Last Year' -- They're From Four Decades Ago

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: The Statistics On This Protest Sign Are NOT From 'Last Year' -- They're From Four Decades Ago Very Old Stats

Are the numbers cited on this protest sign representative of gun deaths from last year? No, that's not true: This list of statistics is 40 years old. Although the numbers are old, the photo shows a protest in Los Angeles that likely took place in 2018. The statistics transcribed onto the poster are very out of date. The list even includes numbers from West Germany, which was reunified with East Germany in 1990.

The photo was originally posted (archived here) on Facebook on November 8, 2018. The 2-year-old post has recently resurfaced and is being shared again in November of 2020. The post has no caption and the text written on the poster reads:

Last Year Guns Killed...

48 people in Japan
8 in Great Britain
34 in Switzerland
52 in Canada
58 in Israel
21 in Sweden
42 in West Germany
10,728 in the US

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Nov 18 17:51:35 2020 UTC)

Most instances of this photo found in online searches were posted on May 18, 2018, or after. The photo shows a protest scene in Los Angeles at the intersection of 5th Street and Broadway. This intersection was the site of the Los Angeles "March For Our Lives" protest that took place on March 24, 2018. There were many "March For Our Lives" protests on that day around the country, the largest being in Washington, D.C. The "March For Our Lives" movement arose in the aftermath of the February 14, 2018, shooting in Parkland, Florida, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 14 students and three staff members were killed.

On May 18, 2018, Rock the Vote posted a tweet including this photo and referred to a shooting that happened that day in Texas in which 10 people at a Santa Fe high school were killed.

There is a second photo of this young woman holding this sign at 5th and Broadway. Another photo from the March 24, 2018, Los Angeles protest shows a different sign with the same list of statistics. This second sign appears in a DailyNews.com slideshow published on March 25, 2018, "March for Our Lives, downtown Los Angeles." This was not the only gun control protest that happened that spring. The Los Angeles Daily News reported on the February 19, 2018, rally at Pershing Square, just a block away from the other location "Gun-control advocates at LA rally say 'enough is enough' in wake of Florida school shooting."


Photo on left: Unknown Photographer, Los Angeles, unknown date- before 5/18/18
Photo on right: Axel Koester for The Daily Breeze/SCNG "March for Our Lives" Los Angeles Saturday, March 24th, 2018

These old statistics circulated on social media back in late 2012, long before the protest in Los Angeles. Those posts from 2012 have been deleted, but articles both pointing out that even at the time the statistics were old, were written by FullFact, "Decades old gun deaths poster goes viral again" and PolitiFact, "Facebook posting on handgun deaths has out-of-date numbers, but the trend persists."

This "Stop Handguns Before They Stop You" ad (archived here) was published in a 1981 Playboy Magazine and is the likely popular source of the numbers. The ad was placed by Handgun Control, Inc. which is now known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The very small print in the ad, as explained by FullFact, says these are 1979 statistics from the FBI.

GunRWB.JPGThese statistics, the exact numbers and same collection of countries (minus Switzerland), are also cited in the March 3, 1982 advice column of Ann Landers (here). The statistics she offers are labeled as, "1980 Handgun Deaths."

On December 13, 2018, The Hill reported, "CDC report: US gun deaths reach highest level in nearly 40 years."

Last year marked a record-high for gun-related deaths in the U.S. in nearly four decades, according to new data released from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention's WONDER database.

Nearly 40,000 people were killed by guns last year, according to the data.

The 39,773 recorded deaths from firearms marked an increase of more than 10,000 compared to the 28,874 deaths recorded in 1999.

When adjusted for age fluctuations, the estimate represents a total of 12 deaths per 100,000 people -- a jump from 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people in 1999.

CDC statisticians told CNN that gun deaths have reached a record-high going back to at least 1979, when firearm deaths started to be coded in mortality data.

The CDC Data on firearms deaths can be found (here) in Table 18 on page 71 of the National Vital Statistics Reports; Volume 48, No. 11.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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