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Hammers vs Guns: Which Kills More People?

A viral video posted on Twitter in May 2022, shows an interviewer with the Twitter name “The Good Liars” interviewing a man at the NRA convention. The man claims that hammers kill more people than guns. So, is this the case?

Are More People Killed with Hammers than Guns?

No, hammers do not kill more people than guns in the U.S. However, hammers & clubs are used to kill more people in America than rifles, such as the AR-15.

The man in the video had probably heard the statistic that more people are killed by rifles (according to the FBI) than hammers. Unfortunately for him, he misremembered and now he’s on a viral video making a wildly incorrect claim.

According to the FBI1, there were 13,927 murders in the United States in 2019. Of those, 10,258 (74%) were committed with a gun of some type. However, handguns are by far the most common weapon used to kill. Of 10,258 gun homicides in 2019, 6368 (62%) were committed with handguns while only 364 (3.5%) involved rifles. 

Comparatively, of the 3,669 murders committed with means other than firearms, 397 were committed with blunt instruments such as hammers and clubs. So hammers kill far less people than guns each year.

Things That are More Deadly Than Rifles

Because of the high profile nature of mass murders involving AR-15s and because of the disproportionate emphasis by gun activists and politicians, it is widely assumed that rifles cause mayhem and death across the country. Big, black guns are just scarier than hammers and…bare hands?

How do these statistics line up with your own understanding? How about the media narrative about rifles? When did you last see a news story about the epidemic of hammer or punching deaths?

Homicides using rifles vs knives, hammers, bats, fists, feet, and hands

Knives: 1,476 Murders

Apart from handguns, knives are the most commonly used weapon for committing murders. In 2019, 1,476 murders were committed using knives. Between 2015 and 2019, there were 7,721 knife killings vs. 1,573 rifle murders. Stated another way, that means there were 4.9 stabbing murders for each murder committed with a rifle.

Knives are easily concealable and very effective in close range. They are also easily acquired as any steak knife is just as effective as a more “tactical” one. In contrast, rifles are large and conspicuous. Despite the common fear in the media of AR-15s and “Assault Rifles,” knives are far greater threat to Americans each day.

Fists, Hands, & Feet: 600 Murders

Surprisingly, unarmed murder is far more common than killings involving rifles. For every two murders with a hammer, there are three where feet, fists, or hands provide the deadly force. In 2019, there were 600 murders committed using fists, hands, & feet according to the FBI. From 2015 and 2019, there were 1,573 murders using rifles vs. 3,346 murders were committed with no weapon at all!

Many people underestimate the force that a kick or punch contains, especially when inflicted on someone smaller or older in age. Getting into a fist fight can potentially cause serious injury or even death, so be smart and diffuse any escalating situations that might result in a fight.

How long until politicians call for Americans to be literally “unarmed?”

Hammers: 397 Murders

Hammers were used to kill more people in 2019 than rifles, including the often demonized AR-15. By the numbers, this is accurate as there were 364 murders using rifles and 397 using hammers/clubs. Between 2015 and 2019, there were 1,573 murders using rifles. During that same time period, there were 2,230 murders with hammers and other blunt weapons.

Comparison to All Deaths

If we broaden our analysis to all of the ways that Americans die2, we see that murder by gun ranks as the 31st most common cause of death. As we have previously established, rifles make up just 3.5% of gun homicides.

On the same list of most common causes of death in the United States, non-gun homicides come in all the way down at 51st. It’s reasonable to infer that if we separated out rifle deaths from all gun deaths, it wouldn’t even make the top 100…somewhere below hammers.

No matter how you slice it, the story we tell about guns and murder in the United States is wildly incomplete and inaccurate.


1 – https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8.xls

2 – https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/death-index-top-50-ways-americans-die/30/

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