Fact Checker

Fact Checker: John Delaney says guns kill more people than cars. Do they?

Democratic presidential hopeful John Delaney of Maryland answers voters' questions Oct. 14, 2017, at Karma Coffee Cafe,
Democratic presidential hopeful John Delaney of Maryland answers voters’ questions Oct. 14, 2017, at Karma Coffee Cafe, 1725 Boyson Road, in Hiawatha. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Thirty-minute ad spots about John Delaney, a Democratic candidate for president and former U.S. representative from Maryland, started airing in Iowa markets last month. The infomercial runs through his stances on hot-button issues like health care, education and gun violence.

While on gun issues, Delaney says, “According to the CDC, guns were responsible for nearly 40,000 deaths in 2017, more than the annual number of automobile deaths.” A graphic appears on screen that reads: “39,773 firearm deaths in 2017.”

Analysis

Is it true gun deaths outnumbered those caused by cars?

The Fact Checker reached out to the Delaney campaign for its sourcing, and it pointed us toward a Vox article and a set of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Graded an A

The most recent data available from the CDC is from 2017. During that year, the federal agency reported the total number of “motor vehicle traffic deaths” was 38,659. “All firearm deaths” numbered 39,773.

Per capita, car-related deaths per 100,000 people were 11.9 while firearm deaths were 12.2 per 100,000 people.

Adjusted for population size, the CDC reflected an increase of 1.7 percent from 2016 to 2017 in deaths involving a firearm — what it called statistically significant — in its annual report, During the same period, traffic-related deaths decreased 1.7 percent.

The primary causes of firearm deaths were suicide and homicide, according to the report — 60 percent and 36.6 percent respectively.

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The significant increase in gun deaths was driven by suicides, according to the Vox article cited by the campaign. The CDC said about 23,850 gun deaths were self-inflicted.

In all, more than 2.8 million deaths were reported in the United States in 2017. The CDC analysis was based on information included on death certificates.

It was the first time firearm deaths surpassed car deaths, and the news was widely reported in national publications.

An analysis by The Post of the 2014 version of the data pointed out that the trend lines for gun deaths and car deaths met primarily because of a steep decline in car fatalities.

Conclusion

While some gun rights advocates have taken issue with the suicide rate’s role in increasing the overall firearm death rate, we’re hesitant to discount it.

Research has indicated that most people who survive a suicidal impulse do not ultimately die by suicide, but those impulses are more likely to be fatal when a person uses a gun. Access to firearms, according to the American Public Health Association, appears to have an impact.

Delaney’s numbers match the CDC’s. We give him an A on this claim.

Criteria

The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads that appear in our market.

Claims must be independently verifiable.

We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim you think needs checking, email us at factchecker@thegazette.com.

This Fact Checker was researched and written by Molly Duffy of The Gazette.

Having suicidal thoughts? How to get help

Call: 1-800-273-8255. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.

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