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FBI stats: Knives used in 5 times as many murders as rifles in 2018

Beatings also were a larger share of murders than rifles

Bryan Anselm/Redux For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its Uniform Crime Report for 2018 on Monday, and the numbers indicate that more people were killed by knives than rifles.

The annual report touts an overall drop in violent crime for the second consecutive year, according to the Bureau's news release on the numbers. However, the numbers specifically regarding homicides in the United States offer some insight into America's ongoing gun control debate.

Due to multiple shooting massacres that took place in August, gun control proponents have once again turned their animus toward semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15. Perhaps the most salient example of this is 2020 Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke's pledge, "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47."

However, as has been the case in previous years, the numbers show that rifles in general — which would include semi-automatics as well as others — are only responsible for a fraction of a percent of the total homicide rate in the United States.

Here's what the FBI's 2018 homicide numbers show us:

  • Overall, the number of homicides dropped from 15,195 in 2017 to 14,123 in 2018. The overall number of people murdered with guns dropped as well.
  • 10,265 were committed with firearms, out of which handguns accounted for 6,603.
  • Rifles were used in 297 homicides, with shotguns being used in 235 and "other guns" used in 167.
  • 2,963 homicides were listed as "firearms, type not stated."

What does this show us? According to the available information, rifles were responsible for just 2.1 percent of total homicides last year — and 2.9 percent of gun homicides.

Once again, deaths from knives and "personal weapons" like hands, fists and feet were higher than the number homicides committed with rifles. More than five times as many murders were committed with knives (1,515) as with rifles, and more than twice as many people were killed with "personal weapons" (672). Other years included in the FBI report's table — which spans 2014-2018 — show similar disparities between the same weapon types.

Again, these numbers are just for rifles as a whole. There's no further breakdown for what kind of action or cosmetic features the rifles had.

The question of what to do about the AR-15 and other widely used semi-automatic rifles — sometimes referred to as "assault weapons" — will likely remain as one of the main focus points in America's ongoing debate about guns and the Second Amendment.

One last thing…
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