A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Hillary Clinton on Gun Deaths


Q: Have 3,000 people been killed by guns in the U.S. in one month, from Oct. 13 to Nov. 14, 2015?
A: Comprehensive data aren’t available yet. The figures cited by Hillary Clinton during a Democratic debate are an extrapolation based on past years.

 

FULL QUESTION

How about fact-checking this:

CLINTON: “Since we last debated in Las Vegas, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns. Two hundred children have been killed. This is an emergency.”

She said that in the same period there have been 21 mass shootings, “including one last weekend in Des Moines where three were murdered.”

One has to wonder why this statement was not included in your analysis of the Democratic debate. Would you care to inform?

FULL ANSWER

After publishing our analysis of the second Democratic debate, we heard from a few readers who were curious about a claim Hillary Clinton made on the topic of guns.

Clinton, Nov. 14: But just think about this — since we last debated in Las Vegas, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns. Twenty-one mass shootings, including one last weekend in Des Moines where three were murdered. Two hundred children have been killed. This is an emergency.

But Clinton doesn’t know how many gun deaths have occurred since the first Democratic debate was held on Oct. 13. The best data on that subject aren’t yet available.

Instead, her figures are estimates based on gun fatalities in previous years, which would not have been clear to those watching or listening to the debate.

Gun Deaths

The Clinton campaign told us the figure for “people killed by guns” was based on statistics for 2013. That year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 33,636 gun deaths. That averages to about 2,800 gun deaths (or nearly 3,000) each month of the year, and the first and second Democratic debates were roughly one month apart.

The CDC numbers on gun deaths include suicides, which make up the majority of gun deaths (63 percent of them in 2013), homicides (33 percent), unintentional discharges, legal interventions/war and some that are undetermined.

Clinton’s figure for gun deaths of children was based on data going back even further. A 2013 report from the Children’s Defense Fund, which the Clinton campaign pointed to, said that 2,694 children and teenagers died from guns in 2010, according to CDC data. That is an average of almost 225 deaths per month of the year.

The most recent CDC data cover 2013, when there were 2,465 firearm-related deaths for those 19 and younger. That’s more than 205 deaths per month, which is closer to what Clinton said.

Update, Nov. 19: Counting only those age 17 and under, the number of children and teens killed by guns in 2013 was 1,258, according to CDC data. That averages to 105 gun deaths per month.

But we don’t yet know the number of gun deaths for 2015, and it will likely be more than a year before the CDC publishes that data. Even then, we won’t be able to look at the number of deaths for one month or a time period more specific than a year.

Outside of the CDC, there is the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group formed in 2013. It seeks to provide a near-real-time archive of gun-related incidents occurring every day from more than 1,200 media, government and commercial sources.

According to the GVA, as of Nov. 18, there were 11,633 gun deaths in 2015, including 2,931 children or teens 17 years old or younger. The archive is not comprehensive, though.

That’s largely because it doesn’t yet include deaths from suicide, which the GVA says are not reported by law enforcement agencies and coroners offices the same way as other gun-related incidents, and thus cannot be reported in near real time.

That means the GVA undercounts the total number of gun deaths in 2015, since suicides accounted for the majority of all gun deaths in 2013.

Mark Bryant, the GVA executive director, said that Clinton would likely be right, at least based on an average per month, when suicides are added to its count for 2015.

Mass Shootings

Clinton was right that there have been 21 mass shootings since Oct. 13. That’s according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which lists incidents in which four or more people were shot.

However, she got the number of people killed in a Nov. 8 mass shooting in Des Moines, Iowa, wrong. One person was killed in that shooting — not three, as she said. Three others were wounded.

 

Sources

Washington Post. “The CBS Democratic debate transcript, annotated.” 15 Nov 2015.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths: Final Data for 2013, table 18. Accessed 16 Nov 2015.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Fatal Injury Data. Accessed 16 Nov 2015.

Gun Violence Archive. 2015 Toll of Gun Violence. Accessed 18 Nov 2015.

Gun Violence Archive. General Methodology. Accessed 17 Nov 2015.

Children’s Defense Fund. Protect Children Not Guns 2013. 24 Jul 2013.

Mass Shooting Tracker. 2015 Mass Shooting List. Accessed 17 Nov 2015.

Hepker, Aaron. “One Person Killed in Early Morning Shooting Outside Nightclub.” WHOtv.com. 9 Nov 2015.