More Minnesotans were killed in fist fights than by rifles in 2011

No doubt, rifles are potentially more deadly than fists, but potential doesn't necessarily match reality.
No doubt, rifles are potentially more deadly than fists, but potential doesn't necessarily match reality.

When President Obama spoke in North Minneapolis earlier this month, he characterized his proposed semi-automatic rifle ban as "one thing we can do" to reduce gun violence and thereby save lives. But the numbers suggest a ban of that sort might have minimal impact.

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That's because in 2011 -- the last year for which numbers are available -- only three Minnesotans were murdered with a rifle of any type. By comparison, four died in fist fights. Twelve were killed by knives and 51 by handguns.

WCCO's Jason DeRusha, who pulled the numbers for yesterday's installment of "Good Question," notes that two of Minnesota's recent high-profile shootings -- the Accent Signage mass shooting and Monday's murder of a 9-year-boy in Oakdale -- were perpetrated by handgun-wielding gunman. More from DeRusha:

The same story plays out across the nation. Of the 12,664 murders in 2011 reported to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, 6,220 were committed with handguns -- about 49 percent of the total report.

By comparison, killers used a rifle on 323 people, 2.5 percent of all murders. Assault rifle murders aren't split out, but it's safe to assume it's less than the 323.

Most put the number of assault weapon murders as between 1 and 2 percent of all murders.

In 2011, knives were used in 1,694 murders. Fists and feet were used in 728 murders, and blunt objects -like clubs, bats and hammers - were used in 496 murders.

Of course, the issue of semi-automatic rifle violence became a hotter topic than ever in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, where 20 children and six adults were killed by Adam Lanza and his semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle.

But as far as gun violence goes, handguns appear to be the real problem, and nobody is seriously proposing banning them. Then again, as Obama said in Minneapolis, "If there's even one thing we can do, even one life we can save, we have an obligation to try."

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