NRA Says Numbers Support Their Pro-Gun Arguments

The National Rifle Association periodically releases national statistics that the gun lobby group says bolsters its arguments against more gun control.

Here are examples:

  • In July 2010, the NRA reported that the number of handguns nationwide increased 50 percent from 1980 to 2009 while the murder rate decreased 52 percent. From 1976, when the District of Columbia banned handguns, to 1991 its murder rate increased 201 percent while the national murder rate increased only 12 percent.
  • The NRA reported in September 2010 that violent crime decreased by 43 percent since 1991 and murder fell by 49 percent since then. "At the same time, the number of guns that Americans own has risen by about 90 million."
  • The NRA also reported in September 2010 that there were more than 250 million privately-owned firearms in the U.S., including nearly 100 million handguns and tens of millions of "assault weapons." In 2008 alone, more than 337,000 new AR-15s were configured for home defense, competition, training, recreational target practice and hunting. The NRA also reported that since the federal assault weapon ban expired in 2004, the murder rate dropped 10 percent.

Also as of September 2010, 40 states had right-to-carry gun laws, up from 10 in 1987. All states had hunter protection laws, 48 had range protection laws, 48 prohibited local gun laws more restrictive than state law, 44 protected the right to firearms in their constitutions, 33 had laws protecting the right to use guns in self-defense, and 33 prohibited "frivolous" lawsuits against the firearms industry. An additional two states have since adopted right-to-carry laws.

  • Updating previously released data, the NRA reported Jan. 14 that since 1991 violent crime decreased 49 percent and the murder rate dropped 52 percent. At the same time, the number of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles on the market climbed by 3.5 million. There were also roughly 50 million more semi-automatic firearms, more than 120 million additional privately-owned firearms, and tens of millions of additional magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

The NRA also quoted police reports and felon surveys as stating that assault weapons are used in only 1 to 2 percent of violent crimes. The organization also reported that there are 12 times as many murders with knives, blunt objects, hands, fists and feet as with rifles. 

  • On Jan. 17, the NRA reported the following: the Justice Department found in 1985 that only one of five convicted felons obtained guns through legal channels such as retail stores; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stated in 1991 that 79 percent of armed career criminals obtained firearms from street sales, criminal acts, associates and relatives; and the Bureau of Justice Statistics discovered that only 1.7 percent of state prison inmates convicted of firearm crimes obtained their weapons from anyone at a gun show or flea market.

The NRA also quoted the Federal Bureau of Investigation as stating that an average of 232,400 firearms were stolen each year from 2005 through 2010.

  • The NRA reported separately on Jan. 17 that there were upwards of 300 million privately-owned guns in the U.S. -- an all-time high -- and that private gun ownership was increasing by 10 million firearms annually. The firearm accident death rate, though, was down 94 percent since 1904. Firearms are involved in only five-tenths of 1 percent of all accidental deaths nationally.

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