Fact Check: Murders Are NOT Only 17% Of Gun-Related Deaths In US; The Number Is More Than Double That

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Murders Are NOT Only 17% Of Gun-Related Deaths In US; The Number Is More Than Double That 43% Murders

Do murders make up only 17% of gun-related deaths in the United States? No, that's not true: In 2020, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of that total, 43% were attributed to murder, according to a breakdown by the Pew Research Center.

The claims appeared in a Facebook post on April 8, 2021. It opened:

There are 30,000 gun related deaths per year by firearms, and this number is not disputed. U.S. population 324,059,091 as of Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Do the math: 0.00925% of the population dies from gun related actions each year. Statistically speaking, this is insignificant! What is never told, however, is a breakdown of those 30,000 deaths, to put them in perspective as compared to other causes of death:
β€’ 65% of those deaths are by suicide which would never be prevented by gun laws
β€’ 15% are by law enforcement in the line of duty and justified
β€’ 17% are through criminal activity, gang and drug related or mentally ill persons - gun violence
β€’ 3% are accidental discharge deaths

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

Facebook Guns.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Mon Jun 6 19:47:52 2022 UTC)

Original post from 2017

The source of the numbers used in this post is unclear, but the details were taken from a June 6, 2017, Facebook post by rock star Ted Nugent.

The most recent year with complete data from the CDC is 2020 when 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the United States. This is how Pew broke down the death toll due to guns:

  • 54% - Suicide (24,292 deaths)
  • 43% - Murder (19,384)
  • 3% - Other, including unintentional (535), involved law enforcement (611) or had undetermined circumstances (400)

Here's their chart for the statistics:

pie chart.png

(Source: Pew Research Center screenshot taken on Mon Jun 6 21:38:12 2022 UTC)

Nugent's numbers

The FBI defines murder as the "willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another." In his Facebook post, Nugent used his own definition of gun violence -- "criminal activity, gang and drug related or mentally ill persons" -- to exclude 83% of the gun-related deaths in his unsourced tally.

Nugent's Facebook post went on to say:

So technically, 'gun violence' is not 30,000 annually, but drops to 5,100. Still too many? Well, first, how are those deaths spanned across the nation?
β€’ 480 homicides (9.4%) were in Chicago
β€’ 344 homicides (6.7%) were in Baltimore
β€’ 333 homicides (6.5%) were in Detroit
β€’ 119 homicides (2.3%) were in Washington D.C. (a 54% increase over prior years)
So basically, 25% of all gun crime happens in just 4 cities. All 4 of those cities have strict gun laws, so it is not the lack of law that is the root cause.
Using the CDC's 2020 numbers, the breakdown was much different. As 19,384 were murdered with guns -- not 5,100 -- a much smaller percentage of people died in those same cities. Using FBI homicide numbers on the Everytown for Gun Safety website, Lead Stories calculated these percentages:
  • Chicago - 692 (3.6%)
  • Baltimore - 272 (1.4%)
  • Detroit - 290 (1.5%)
  • Washington, D.C. - 187 (0.96%)

So, instead of a quarter of all gun crime happening in just four cities, the figure is about 7.4%.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

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