Saturday, December 15, 2012

Putting Gun Violence into Proper Perspective

The horrible and tragic school shooting incident in Newtown, Connecticut prompts some to advocate for even tighter gun restrictions. As a common-sense individual, I'm in favor of equally common-sense and balanced safeguards as long as they do not punish law-abiding citizens who are within their Constitutional rights to "keep and bear arms."
United States Constitution:  AMENDMENT II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
As a data nerd, I have some basic questions.  No doubt, tragic events like the Newtown shooting are sensational and garner much deserved media attention.  However, is gun violence a leading cause of death among Americans?

Let's examine actual data courtesy of the United States Census Bureau.  Table 121. Deaths by Age and Selected Causes categorizes causes of death in the United States for 2007, the most recent year where side-by-side data is available.  Low on the page, the table shows the number of murders (homicides) caused by a discharge of firearms.  The total number of people killed by firearms nationally in 2007 was 12,632.

Each death is indeed a tragedy and some deaths might have been prevented.  Are MORE gun laws the answer?  How many EXISTING local, state, and federal firearms laws did the Newton shooter violate?  Did these existing gun laws ACTUALLY make the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary any safer?  Were they enforced?

Additionally, how many lives were SAVED thanks to firearms?  That's a much harder number to qualify.  Where I live, our excellent police protection is likely a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes away after making a call.    I have a weapon for home protection and both my wife and I know how to use it.  Thankfully, we've never needed to use it, much like the fire extinguisher in our kitchen or our earthquake preparation kit.

Let's put the risk of being murdered by firearms into proper perspective.  Moving up the page a bit, see that simple falls kill nearly twice as many people as do murderers using firearms.  Is the solution to ban gravity?  No, but there are common-sense solutions to reduce the risk.  As proven in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, simply banning guns will not by itself reduce gun violence.

Deaths from other causes are far more preventable than murders by firearms or people killed by gravity. For example, move near the top of the page.  HIV kills nearly as many people in the United States as gun violence.  A major cause of HIV is unprotected sex.  Perhaps the solution is for Congress to pass a new federal law REQUIRING condoms when engaging in certain acts.  "Preposterous!" will claim many civil libertarians.  Yet, there is no explicit Constitutional guarantee safeguarding someone's right to unprotected sex.  However, there is an explicit Constitutional protection to keep and bears arms, written in the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution.

I agree that we should act to curb violence, especially against the innocent.  But again, let's put gun violence into perspective.  Another almost-entirely preventable action takes nearly 100 TIMES MORE INNOCENT LIVES than firearm violence.  Likely for political reasons, the United States Census Bureau does not list it along with the other causes of death.  These deaths are tracked separately in Table 102. Abortions by Selected Characteristics: 1990 to 2007.  In 2007, there were 1,210 x 1,000 abortions performed in the United States, equal to 1,210,000 or 1.21 MILLION.  This is 95 times higher than the total number of people killed by firearms that same year--including adults and children.  This is also roughly the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis at the Auschwitz death camp during all its years of operation.  This also roughly equates to the entire population of Dallas, Texas--America's 9th largest city.  Most of these deaths are also entirely preventable. However, even the simplest proposed restrictions against abortion are met with protest and outrage despite clear mentions of government protections for life in the Declaration of Independence and in the 14th Amendment.

We should work to prevent deaths when we can do so intelligently and without violating the Constitution rights of those who are breaking no laws.

See also ...


  1. Inconvenient Fact: Legally-Owned Guns 25 Times More Likely to be Used in Self Defense Than to Commit a Crime

    1. Inconvenient fact: That's not actually a verifiable statistic.

    2. Of course it is a verifiable statistic. Every handgun used in the commission of a crime can be divided into those legally owned by the criminal and those not legally owned by the criminal. This will give you the rate of illegally-owned handgun use in the commission of a crime versus the opposite.

      The rate of crime committed by people using their legally-obtained firearms is infinitesimally small compared to the rate of crime committed by people with illegally-obtained firearms.

      And we have not yet scratched the self-defense portion of the data.

      The shooting deaths of perpetrators committing, or attempting to commit, a crime against a legal-gun owner are either viewed as justifiable or non-justifiable. The number of deaths resulting from justifiable acts of self-defense by legal gun owners far outweigh the number of deaths deemed nonjustifiable homicide or manslaughter.

      The problem is that the true incidence of justifiable acts of self-defense cannot be known because they are not recorded by police departments responding to a shooting incident. Zimmerman was not arrested for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin precisely because there was no evidence to dispute the eyewitness reports, along with the evidence collected at the scene, that this incident was not a justifiable act of self-defense.

      Self-defense is not a crime. Every living citizen has a duty to protect their own life. Contrary to liberal assertions, the police have no duty to protect anyone's life other than their own.