Fact Check: Three False Claims from TBS Host Samantha Bee’s Gun Control Special

Samantha Bee attends "A Night Out With" FYC Event held at The Theatre at Ace Hotel on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Wednesday’s episode of the TBS weekly late-night show Full Frontal featured host Samantha Bee dedicating the entire episode to arguing for specific gun control measures that she says would be effective in an effort to stop gun violence in America. The episode was full of false claims.

The episode was titled, “Full Frontal Wants to Take Your Guns.” Bee’s main focus was to push for universal background checks and automobile-like safety regulations for firearms. She justified the need for these policies by claiming 40,000 people are killed in America each year by gun violence.

The segment opened with Bee describing America as a “hellscape of a country” where there “is a shooting” almost every day.

She then warned that midterm elections are only 18 months, and suggested that she and her fellow leftists only have “18 months to do one fuckin’ thing about gun control.”

Watch below: 

Samantha Bee jumped into her gun control push, which began with the 40,000 annual gun violence deaths. And that’s where our fact checking will begin.

CLAIM: “Gun violence…kills nearly 40,000 people each year.”

VERDICT: FALSE. Even in years with an elevated number of firearm-related deaths, the number of “gun violence” deaths only constitutes a third of the overall figure. In other words, the vast majority of gun-related deaths are suicides, not homicides, street crime, or mass public acts of violence.

For example, the CDC reported 39,773 firearm-related deaths in 2017. This figure has been seized upon by establishment media outlets and gun control proponents, like Bee, many of whom do not mention suicides were the greatest contributing factor to the increase in firearm-related deaths. After all, nearly two-thirds of 2017’s gun deaths were suicides.

The Chicago Tribune’s Steven Chapman noted something that many people missed: namely, that the increase in 2017 suicides “was actually greater for the non-firearm suicide rate than for the firearm suicide rate.”

Bee then began pointing to proposed gun control measures which she thinks work, among them, “universal background checks.”

CLAIM: “[U]niversal background checks” are an example of a gun control laws that works.

VERDICT: FLASE. Colorado has universal background checks and they did not prevent the March 22, 2021, Boulder mass shooting. California has universal background checks, yet South LA witnessed a 742 percent surge in shooting victims during the first 16 days of 2021. New York has universal background checks, yet the Daily Mail notes that shooting incidents in New York City are up 83 percent over last year.

Also, it should be noted that background checks look backward, checking for criminal history not criminal intent. They do not, and cannot, look forward. Therefore, individuals with a clean record but criminal intent will be able to pass a background check and then commit the crime they planned to carry out. This has happened again and again with the federal background check system that has been in place in the U.S. since 1998.

For example, in each of the following incidents, the attacker acquired his guns via a background check:

  • FedEx attacker (April 15, 2021)
  • Boulder, Colorado, attacker (March 22, 2021)
  • Atlanta-area attacker (March 16, 2021)
  • Parkland high school attacker (February 14, 2018)
  • Texas church attacker (November 5, 2017)
  • Las Vegas attacker (October 1, 2017)
  • Alexandria attacker (June 14, 2017))
  • Orlando attacker (June 12, 2016)
  • UCLA gunman (June 1, 2016))
  • San Bernardino attackers (December 2, 2015)
  • Colorado Springs attacker (October 31, 2015)
  • Umpqua Community College attacker (October 1, 2015)
  • Alison Parker’s attacker (August 26, 2015)
  • Lafayette movie theater attacker (July 23, 2015)
  • Chattanooga attacker (July 16, 2015)
  • Alleged Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal attacker (Jun 17, 2015)
  • Muhammad Carton Contest attackers (May 3, 2014)
  • Las Vegas cop killers (June 9, 2015)
  • Santa Barbara attacker (May 23, 2014)
  • Fort Hood attacker (April 2, 2014)
  • Arapahoe High School attacker (December 13, 2013)
  • D.C. Navy Yard attacker (September 16, 2013)
  • Aurora movie theater attacker (July 20, 2012)
  • Gabby Giffords’ attacker (January 8, 2011)
  • Fort Hood attacker (November 5, 2009)
  • Northern Illinois University attacker (February 14, 2008)
  • Virginia Tech attacker (April 16, 2007).

Samantha Bee argued that treating guns the way we treated cars — beginning in the 1970s — could make the nation safer.

FACT CHECK: Samantha Bee claimed that gun violence can be reduced by following the “federal safety standards” approach our government used with automobiles.

VERDICT: FALSE. Samantha Bee specifically cited seat belt requirements as an example that saves lives, arguing that “our country saw a public health crisis in driving fatalities” then acted via safety regulations. She suggested the regulations made cars safer and argued the same approach should be used with guns.

The car regulation-gun regulation argument has been pushed out for a years, even though it was discredited by Duke University researcher Chris Conover in 2015. Breitbart News noted that Conover was a Research Scholar at the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at Duke when he posited that owning a car is “80 percent” riskier than owning a gun.

Writing in Forbes, Conover explained that individuals contending that the level of gun deaths vs the level of car deaths show that gun ownership is more dangerous are making such assertions without taking into account how many tens of millions more guns there are than cars on the road in the U.S.

Conover elaborated:

There were 310 million guns in the U.S. in 2009 (a Congressional Research Service figure have no reason to dispute), a figure that likely grew to perhaps 350 million by 2013. These guns result in 33,000 deaths in 2013, of which 64% were suicides, leaving 500 accidental deaths and 11,200 due to homicides.

There were 269 million registered vehicles in the U.S. in 2013. These result in 33,000 deaths a year, roughly half of which are drivers (these are official NHTSA statistics).

Conover then explained how and why to distinguish between self-harm and harm to others, and draws an inference based on the facts:

In this sharply divided country, there surely is also strong disagreement about the extent to which government ought to be protecting citizens from self-harm. But I presume that a broad spectrum of the public on both sides of the aisle would agree there is an appropriate government role in protecting citizens from being harmed by one another. So if we leave aside self-inflicted deaths, the average car is 1.8 times as risky as the average gun. That is, my owning a car is 80 percent more likely to result in the death of another person than my owning a gun.

“The typical car is 25 times more as likely to kill someone accidentally as the typical gun,” Conover noted.

Conover then concluded, “In light of these eye-opening but indisputable facts, why is gun ownership so vilified by progressives? They could save literally 25 times as many lives by convincing a single typical car owner to drive more responsibly than convincing a single typical gun owner to use their weapon more responsibly.”

AWR Hawkins is an award-winning Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and the writer/curator of Down Range with AWR Hawkinsa weekly newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment, also for Breitbart News. He is the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him at awrhawkins@breitbart.com. You can sign up to get Down Range at breitbart.com/downrange.

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