“More murders were committed last year with hammers than with shotguns, rifles or AK-47s.”
Georgia state Sen. Bill Jackson during a Feb. 11, 2013, meeting
“There are more people killed with baseball bats and hammers than are killed with guns.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, an Athens Republican, in a Feb. 13, 2013, article
Some gun control critics are using a similar talking point in the national debate over this issue.
PolitiFact Georgia spotted two recent claims on the topic that show the importance of being precise when making an argument on an issue. One speaker got it right. The other person made a more general statement on guns and got it wrong.
Our odyssey began when an interesting comment by a state senator started making the rounds at the Georgia Capitol and on Twitter.
“More murders were committed last year with hammers than with shotguns, rifles or AK-47s,” said state Sen. Bill Jackson, a Republican from Augusta.
He then mentioned the case of someone bludgeoned to death with a frying pan.
Some fellow senators tried their best lines afterward.
“Thank goodness it wasn’t my wife,” said Hardie Davis, a Democrat from Augusta.
Jackson was mocking talk to limit gun ownership.
“If they’re going to take the guns, let’s take the frying pans and the hammers,” he said. “It’s crazy. That frying pan wasn’t going to go and get up out of the kitchen and kill nobody, now, until that varmint got a hold of it.”
PolitiFact Georgia wanted to figure out whether Jackson’s remarks were accurate, or was he attempting to make a political point with an inaccurate claim?
We quickly discovered our partners at other PolitiFact operations have examined similar claims before. Here’s what they found:
In January, some Facebook posts began to circulate that were critical of the White House’s proposal to restrict the availability of some weapons.
“Facts gun control advocates don’t want you to know. According to the FBI, in 2011, 1,694 were murdered with knives, 726 with hands or feet, 496 with clubs or hammers, 323 with rifles of any type. But Obama wants to ban semi-automatic rifles?” it read.
The FBI figures also showed that 356 people were killed with shotguns.
PolitiFact reviewed 2011 FBI data on the types of weapons used to commit murders. The numbers posted on Facebook nearly matched the FBI data. The Facebook post of how many people were killed with hands or feet was two below the FBI total of 728.
A few weeks later, our partners at PolitiFact Texas examined a similar claim from that state’s attorney general, Greg Abbott.
“FBI: More people killed with hammers & clubs each year than rifles,” Abbott said in a Twitter post.
He supplied a link to a Jan. 3, 2013, Fox News commentary piece that originated on the conservative website Breitbart.com and referred to FBI murder statistics from 2005 through 2011.
PolitiFact Texas noted Abbott used selective data to base his claim. That said, PolitiFact Texas noted, it is correct that FBI data indicates that in 2011, more people were killed with “clubs and hammers” than with any type of rifle. They rated his claim True.
Two days after Jackson’s statement, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican from Athens, was quoted on the same topic.
“There are more people killed with baseball bats and hammers than are killed with guns,” said Broun, who believes in limited government and is running for the U.S. Senate in 2014.
Broun’s statement is not as specific as Jackson and the others. FBI data shows that 6,220 Americans were murdered by handguns in 2011. That’s more than 12 times the number of people killed with clubs or hammers, not including how many people were killed by other types of guns.
Our efforts to reach Broun were unsuccessful.
Jackson’s statement that more murders were committed last year with hammers than with shotguns, rifles or AK-47s was precise. It points to very specific weapons — in this case, weapons that are not used very often to kill people. And it carefully excludes handguns.
If Jackson had said more murders were committed with hammers than shotguns, rifles or AK-47s combined, he would be incorrect.
But he’s on target with the narrow focus of the carefully selected numbers he uses. The number of people killed in 2011, the most recent year such data is available, with blunt objects (hammers, etc.): 496. With rifles: 323. With shotguns: 356.
Our rating for Jackson: True.
Broun’s claim that there are more people killed with baseball bats and hammers than are killed with guns was less specific. Broun’s general use of “guns” by its nature includes handguns. That makes his statement way off.
FBI statistics show that 8,583 people were killed with all guns in 2011 — most of them (6,220) with handguns.
Broun is a congressman who has inserted himself directly into the heated gun debate. And he’s now running for the U.S. Senate. His high-profile run for higher office means that more of his statements will end up in the glare of the spotlight. And some of them could combust.
Our rating for Broun: Pants on Fire.
For a list of sources for this article, go to www.politifact.com/georgia.