Fact Check: Are most gun crimes committed with handguns?

By Emily Larsen

Sen. James Lankford said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that at least three times as many crimes are committed with handguns than with rifles.

Verdict: True

Handguns are used in about nine times as many murders and eight times as many nonfatal violent crimes than rifles, shotguns, and other firearms combined.

Fact Check:

Lankford, R-Okla., pointed out Sunday the high proportion of crimes committed with handguns after “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd pressed him on whether the AR-15, the weapon used in the Parkland, Florida, shooting, should remain classified as a rifle.

“So there are three or four, five times as many crimes committed with a handgun than there are with a rifle. So we can have that conversation. But when you look at the statistics, many, many, many more shootings occur with a pistol than they do with a rifle,” Lankford said.

His office pointed The Daily Caller News Foundation to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reporting on firearms used in murders. By that measure, Lankford is right that handguns are used much more often than rifles.

Handguns were used in 19 times as many murders than rifles were in 2016, according to the Uniform Crime Reporting data. Handguns killed nine times as many persons as rifles, shotguns, and other guns did combined. The type of firearm used was unknown for about 28 percent of all firearm murders.

Firearms are the most common murder weapon, accounting for over half of the murders each year from 2007 to 2016. The FBI’s reporting shows that 11,004 of the 15,070 murders in 2016 were committed with firearms.

Lankford did not limit his claim to murders, saying there are more “crimes committed” with handguns than with rifles. His statement holds true for guns used in other crimes.

Handguns are vastly more common than rifles when firearms are used in crimes such as sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault, according to other federal data. Estimates from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey show that handguns were used in about eight times as many nonfatal violent crimes than other firearms in 2011.

Data on nonfatal violence by type of firearm after 2011 was not publicly available, but the Bureau of Justice Statistics told The Daily Caller News Foundation that there has not been a major change in the proportion of handguns used in nonfatal violent crime since 1994.

Although handguns are more common in crime overall, rifles were used in many recent high-profile mass shootings. The gunmen in the Las VegasTexas church, and Orlando nightclub massacres used rifles.

Gun control advocates argue for more restrictions on assault-style firearms, in part because they are so powerful. Bullets fired from an AR-15, the most popular rifle in the U.S., can do much more damage to the body than bullets fired a handgun.

Federal law prohibits people under the age of 21 from purchasing a handgun from a licensed dealer, but 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in Parkland, was able to buy an AR-15 in Florida because it is classified as a rifle.

“These guns are much more deadly than traditional bolt-action rifles or traditional shotguns, but they are regulated the same way,” Adam Skaggs, chief counsel at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told The New York Times.

Others say that further restrictions on AR-15-style rifles won’t help curb gun violence because handguns are used in the vast majority of gun crimes.

“Little wonder then that a 2004 study commissioned by the Department of Justice found that the federal ban [on assault rifles] didn’t lead to any decrease in gun crime or gun deaths. For starters, rifles, assault or otherwise, are rarely used in gun crime,” Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA Law School, wrote in a 2015 Los Angeles Times op-ed.

Gun crime in the U.S. is “overwhelmingly handgun crime,” he wrote.

Gunmen in other high-profile mass shootings used handguns, including the Charleston church and Fort Lauderdale airport shootings.

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5 thoughts on “Fact Check: Are most gun crimes committed with handguns?

  1. In Vermont we can vote these people out. All of you democrats have to realize that this is not the party you used to belong to. I was a democrat as were my parents. I ran for local office twice as a democrat. Howard Dean was one of the most arrogant people I have ever met. I saw the inner workings of this party. Shortly after that I realized they were for everything I was against. It has only gotten worse. They call themselves democrats but are really progressives. They are about power and control. Look what they are doing to Vermont. Davis Zuckerman is from Connecticut, Phil Baruth is from New York, Tim Ashe is from Massachusetts, Mitzy Johnson, from New York are you getting the picture. The top tier of the Vermont legislature all are from other states. They are here because as Vermonters you are too stupid to run your own life. Wake up!

  2. The parent of one of the kids who died said yesterday ” when they decided to keep airlines safe there was no argument over guns. When they decided to keep our courts and judges safe, there were no politics involved. Stop with the arguments and make our schools safe now!”
    I have to agree. I’d like to add this. On the same day that 17 kids were killed in Florida, 175 died of a drug overdose. In fact, 175 Americans die everyday from drug overdose. So many drugs are coming across the border, that most drug addicts can buy a fatal dose cheaper than a can of beer. Taking one little (unsafe) pill and the life of an unknowing college student is wiped out every day in this country. It is epidemic and shameful that we are arguing over building a border wall while more people have died of a drug overdose in this country than in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

  3. When the Liberal media and various information out sources via “fake news” no real facts can be aired for proper balance. If Soros, his son Alex disburse money to various liberal groups “move on dot org” etc the crapology becomes overwhelming, a constant drumming. Total propaganda. Many sick people undertake violent attacks and the peace loving people have to pay. Unbalanced result.

  4. You can have all the data you want , but liberals will only believe what they want to believe
    for there cause, as stupid as it is !!

    They have an agenda …………. they will say or do anything for that cause even at the cost of
    all the school shootings ……………..soft target , shameful !!

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