Biden gaffe at debate: guns have killed 150 million since 2007

Former longtime Senate Judiciary Committee chairman overstates gun deaths by factor of 1,000

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Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders at the 10th Democratic debate
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders at the 10th Democratic debate
(Win McNamee / Getty Images)
Last Updated:
February 26, 2020 - 10:25am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden committed a major gaffe Tuesday night during a primary debate in South Carolina when he claimed that “150 million people have been killed since 2007” by guns.

That number is equal to roughly half the U.S. population.

The longtime chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee overstated the correct total of gun deaths for the cited span by three orders of magnitude.

The former vice president misquoted the statistic during a heated exchange with Democratic primary frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders about his support of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The law shields gun manufacturers and distributors from civil liability actions brought over the misuse of the weapons by others.

“One hundred and fifty million people have been killed since 2007 when Bernie voted to exempt the gun manufacturers from liability,” Biden said. “more than all the wars including Vietnam from that point on.”

According to the Department of Defense, more than 7,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed during military action in the Middle East, and the National Archives estimates that 58,220 U.S. soldiers died during the Vietnam War.

Sanders, a democratic socialist, reminded the audience that he has “a D-minus voting record" from the influential National Rifle Association.  

The Biden campaign later told CNN that the candidate had misspoken. The correct figure is 150,000 people have been killed by firearms since 2007.

Multiple candidates, including former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, went after Sanders’ record on gun control legislation.

Sanders recently said that his views on the subject have shifted, but in the past he has been influenced by the preferences of his constituents in the largely rural state of Vermont.