Are There 20,000 or 9,000 Gun Laws in U.S.? It’s Impossible to Know


The Washington Post looks into the claim by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre that there are 9,000 federal gun laws. NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said, “If anything, he understated the number of laws,” noting that the NRA generally refers to “20,000 laws.” These figures have been used for almost five decades: Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) used 20,000 at a hearing in 1965. Academic James Wright, one source quoted by the NRA, calls the figure “at best a reasoned guess, by no means a precise count,” and was sources going back to a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms guide in 1978.

Alan Korwin, author of “Gun Laws of America,” believes the 20,000 number “was invented, or at best wildly guessed, probably by the gun-rights community, as a catch-all sound bite for the debate.” The Washington Post’s fact-checker gives LaPierre “three Pinocchios,” saying that the “20,000 figure appears to be an ancient guesstimate that has hardened over the decades into a constantly repeated, never-questioned talking point. It could be lower, or higher, depending on who's counting what.”

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