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The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) – the firearms industry lobby group – have released their most recent survey of firearms injuries and fatalities. Click here for a farrago of charts and graphics, all leading to one inescapable conclusion: guns aren’t dangerous, relatively speaking. Poisoning, for example, accounts for half of all unintentional fatalities in the home. Negligent discharges? Easily rounded down to zero (.06%). In terms of overall accidental deaths, firearms rate just below machinery-related fatalities, accounting for 0.5 percent of the total. Again, effectively zero. That said . . .

The number of Americans who die from negligent firearms discharges, 591, is more than one-a-day. That’s a tragic toll and plenty of grist for the gun control advocates’ always-grinding mill.

To that point, the mainstream media isn’t going to report that 99.5 percent of gun owners didn’t shoot themselves on any given day. They’re going to highlight the fatal negligent discharges – especially those involving children. As does Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which never fails to Facebook the fatalities.

Bottom line: even though negligent discharges are a low frequency event, they’re a high visibility occurence. One that scares the bejesus out of the gun muggles and, thus, helps promote gun control. To counter this effect, pro-gun advocates must work to limit firearms “accidents.” More than that, they must be seen to be doing so.

We’ll have some news on that front next week.

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44 Responses to Firearms Account for Less Than 0.544 of All Unintentional Fatalities

  1. It’s such a shame that the media promotes fear, simply because it creates revenue.

    Thanks for illustrating the true perspective.

  2. [To counter this effect, pro-gun advocates must work to limit firearms “accidents.” More than that, they must be seen to be doing so.

    We’ll have some news on that front next week.]

    There is a point of diminishing returns, even without most of the “gun control” proposals. The risk is never going to be zero. It will be interesting to see what sort of things are proposed.

    • Yes. What more could possibly be done to reduce that half a percentage point?
      Please no more mandatory 8 hour classes of “this is the end you don’t point at your head” tripe.
      We’ll eventually police ourselves into non-practice of the hobby fighting to reduce .5% to .4% just to impress people who would still hate us even if it was .000001%.

      If somebody doesn’t get the 4 rules after five minutes they never will.
      Really all anyone needs to understand is what part makes it go bang and the hole the bang comes out of. Everything else extends from those bits of information.

    • Exactly this.

      There are 100,000,000 gun owners in the US. (How many households? I don’t really know.) How many households own swimming pools?

      The reality is: gun-owning households are orders of magnitude more responsible and safe with firearms than households with swimming pools, baby baths, and common household chemicals. Perhaps we should expend more effort into teaching parents not to leave their toddlers alone in the bathtub, and to keep their chemicals locked up? Gun-safety efforts seem to be perfectly effective.

    • Absolutely true that there is the obstacle of diminishing returns. That is not the relevant point of the OP. We must be seen to be doing so. I.e., we must continuously publicize things like Eddie Eagle and the NRA First Steps emphasis on the 4 rules and so forth.

      The minor objective here is to continuously work on a project of diminishing returns. That remains a legitimate objective because each year we produce a new generation of children who must be trained-to-arms. We do these things to for our own self preservation.

      The major objective here is to counter the Moms’ bad publicity with good publicity. The good publicity is that we are already doing a hell-of-a-good job; come see what we are doing every day in training and mutual enforcement. Look at the damned data! If you want to reduce accidental death the places to start are motor vehicles and poisoning. Eliminating guns wouldn’t put a nick in the accidental death totals.

      • Absolutely true that there is the obstacle of diminishing returns. That is not the relevant point of the OP. We must be seen to be doing so. I.e., we must continuously publicize things like Eddie Eagle and the NRA First Steps emphasis on the 4 rules and so forth.

        Why must we? What is the objective? The current efforts are clearly either effective, or are not needed, based on the actual occurrence of childhood mortality from negligent firearm discharges.

        If the objective is to keep children safe, then we are being counter-productive by investing more time, energy, effort, and money into what is proven to be a non-factor with respect to child safety. That time, energy, effort, and money would be better invested in actual child safety risk factors, such as car crashes, drownings, falls, poisoning, etc.

        If the objective is to counter MDA propaganda, then that time, energy, effort, and money would be better invested in educating the public about the facts regarding child safety risk factors, the actual leading causes of childhood mortality, and the insignificance of negligent firearms discharge.

        Expending more effort into being “seen” advancing efforts that are already proven effective (or unnecessary) will not help either of those two objectives.

        The minor objective here is to continuously work on a project of diminishing returns. That remains a legitimate objective because each year we produce a new generation of children who must be trained-to-arms. We do these things to for our own self preservation.

        Teaching our children responsible firearm handling is merely a matter of being responsible gun owners, and requires no organized effort. Gun ownership is going through the roof, and the rate of death due to negligent firearms discharge is at historic lows. So, I would say that the next generation is already being well-cared for.

        The major objective here is to counter the Moms’ bad publicity with good publicity. The good publicity is that we are already doing a hell-of-a-good job; come see what we are doing every day in training and mutual enforcement. Look at the damned data! If you want to reduce accidental death the places to start are motor vehicles and poisoning. Eliminating guns wouldn’t put a nick in the accidental death totals.

        So focus our effort on education regarding the insignificant risk to childhood mortality posed by negligent firearms discharge. Make people understand that, for every one child killed by a negligent discharge, 80 more are killed in car crashes, 10 more die from drowning, 10 more die in fires, etc. (And that’s just comparing accidental deaths. For every one child that killed by a negligent discharge, over 1,000 more die from cancer, 400 more die from congenital problems, 300 more die in murders, 200 more die from heart failure, 80 more die from flu and pneumonia, etc.)

        Pareto needs to be applied, regardless of the objective.

  3. And for another VERY interesting chart of firearms deaths, go to Wikipedia’s “List of countries by intentional homicide rate” (http://.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List-of-countries-by-intentional-homicide-rate)

    This explains why all of the media coverage of our homicides list absolute numbers, not homicides per 100,000 – which is a far more valid comparison. US rate – 4.7; Mexico – 21.5; Venezuela – 53.7; Brazil – 25.2.

    Gosh, all of those other countries have really strict gun control laws, don’t they? How can they possibly have such high murder rates? Oh yeah, it must be that Eric Holder and the BATF are smuggling guns to those countries.

  4. By the way, you said:

    “To that point, the mainstream media isn’t going to report that 99.5 percent of gun owners didn’t shoot themselves on any given day. ”

    That number is incorrect. If there are only 80-million gun owners (we think more like 100-mil but let’s be conservative), then 591/80-million get shot (I know, it may not be that exactly but that is the number we have to work with). So, instead of 100 – 0.5 (because that is based on the number of incidents overall, not the number of people), it should be 591/80-million which is 0.0000073875 or as a percent, 0.00073875% or 7 10-thousands of a percent.

    • So to fully clear that up, if 0.0000073875 or as a percent, 0.00073875% or 7 10-thousands of a percent do get shot, the media doesn’t report the inverse of that or (80-million – 591 / 80-million) or 0.9999926125 or as a percent, 99.99926125% of gun owners that don’t shoot themselves each year.

      • Hmmmm. We didn’t quite make six-sigma there but we do have three 9’s. Use of the four rules of gun safety could potentially make gun owners six-sigma certified. Interesting, and worth striving for.

      • On the other hand, the good news for the anti-gunners is that we’ll kill ourselves off accidentally in merely 135,000 years, so all they have to do is wait.

    • You’re dorgetting your significant figures.

      Damn ads are opening play store again. And what’s up with the crappy TMZ, chick-gossip site style ads?

      • It was partially tongue-in-cheek. I know that in science it would be zero but in social science being applied to public policy, you know how it is.

        • I understood that based upon the analytics in the post. Most folks would keep reading every number the calculator would spit out. I just thougt it would be helpful to point out what an further insignificant number it is when considering sig figs.

          Bonus points for ignoring the horrible typing from this soft keyboard.

        • Significant figures would not make it zero. Following is your message with correct significant figures. (The limiting contributor is 80 million, with only one significant figure.):

          “…0.000007 or as a percent, 0.0007% or 7 10-thousands of a percent do get shot, the media doesn’t report the inverse of that or (80-million – 591 / 80-million) or 0.999993…” Regarding 0.999993, yes, it *is* possible to get a six significant figure result even with a one significant figure term, in the right calculations such as this.

          But that is all nitpicking. Nice way of capturing the story!

    • Also, the negligent deaths is per year. So the daily number of firearms owners who did not cause an accidental death is the same as the number of firearms owners minus a bit over one.

  5. (Firearms Account for Less Than 0.5% of All Unintentional Fatalities)

    Those annoying, pesky, inconvenient facts…

  6. I’m surpised poisoning is the 2nd leading cause.

    I wonder what percentage of the poisoning deaths are kids.

  7. I’m guessing the poisoning numbers include drug overdoses, some of which are probably intentional. Still, you’re 61 times more likely to die of poisoning than a firearms accident. 57 times more likely to be killed in an auto accident. 46 times more likely from falling. Kind of puts things in perspective, anyway.

    • Yes.
      I was going to suggest that to prevent all of these deaths, everyone should just sit down and die of natural causes.
      But then somebody would tip over face first and suffocate.
      The fourth leading cause.

  8. The NRA and other organizations have been promoting gun safety from the very beginning, so I don’t know if there is much else we can do. Since the rate of accidents is already so ridiculously low (the 99.999…% stat above speaks for itself) the only way to reduce them further would be draconian gun laws seen in various european countries…

    My advice is to put the whole situation in perspective to anti gunners. Driving to work every day they are statistically more likely to get hurt than everyone else they know combined is likely to get shot.

    Furthermore, for a gun owner they are vastly more likely to get hurt driving to the gun range than to get shot, yet no one calls for bans or restrictions on cars.

  9. I don’t drive every day and rarely drink Drano, so the most unsafe thing that I do every day is take a shower. Slip and falls in the bath are deadly. I would give up showering but my cats would complain and besides, personal hygiene is so important, dontcha think?

    • Ray, Easiest is to use your Print Screen key. Then open Microsoft Paint (free program) and hit the paste button. From there you can crop it to the size you want, save it and/or print the document. Another option, if you don’t have MS Paint is to hit the Print Screen button and then save as a JPG or other picture type document. Then open word and paste the “picture” into that document. Then save and and/or print that. Several ways to get what you see on your screen to your printer. All of them pretty easy once you get used to the steps. If that does not work for you, send me an email address and I will email a copy to you. Hopefully that will not violate any copyright laws.

  10. They missed a big one. Unintentional deaths from hospitals was first publicized as 200,000 per year, number didn’t seem right so they dropped it to 100,000 per year . . . . . ahhhh, last number reported was 80,000 per year. Thank your local doctor and hospital for that.

    Why is NSSF afraid of the medical profession?

  11. There should be a law…..that the media, if reporting, has to report in a fair and balanced approach, and this manipulating, distorting one-sided agendas they have must cease as they have a public responsibility. Freedom of the press doesn’t mean lying to us and freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can yell fire in a crowded theater.

  12. Where is the medical deaths statistic? According to JAMA, the numbers are 225,000/year, and that’s what’s reported, independent numbers are much higher.

  13. The ads are out of control. I had to install ad block plus to keep TTAG from crashing my browser several times a day.

  14. From Shankar Vedantam’s “The Hidden Brain”:

    [After a discussion which revealed that people’s unconscious bias is that guns protect them, even though the facts say otherwise. For example, when Washington D.C. banned handguns, the suicide rate fell 23%… so the feeling of safety is belied by fact]

    People feel safer barreling down a highway at seventy miles an hour-without seat belts-than they do sitting in a passenger plane going through turbulence. The fact that we are in control of the car gives us the illusion of safety, even though all the empirical evidence shows we are safer in the plane.

    Suicide rates in states with high levels of gun ownership are much higher than in states that have low levels of gun ownership. Alabama, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico have twice the rate of suicide of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New York. The United States as a whole has a very high suicide rate compared to other industrialized countries. Researchers working for the federal government once examined the suicide rate among children in the United States and twenty-five other industrialized countries over a single year. The suicide rate among American children was more than twice the average suicide rate among children in the other twenty-five countries. The homicide rate among children in the United States was five times higher. Guns were responsible for much of this. If you measured only gun-related homicide and suicide, American children were eleven times more I likely than children in the other twenty-five countries to commit suicide by shooting themselves, were nine times more likely to be killed in accidental shootings, and were sixteen times more likely to be murdered. There were 1107 children shot to death in all the countries; 957 of these victims-86 percent-were children in the United States.

    The researchers Arthur Kellermann and Donald Reay once examined all gun-related deaths over a lengthy period of time in King County in the state of Washington. They were trying to find evidence for the common intuition that gun owners are safer because they can protect themselves and their families should someone break into their homes. Kellermann and Reay identified nine deaths during the period of the study where people shot and killed an intruder. These are the stories that gun advocates endlessly relate to one another. In the same period, guns in people’s homes were implicated in twelve accidental deaths and forty-one homicides–usually family members shooting, one another. The number of suicides? Three hundred and thirty-three.

    • “Kellermann and Reay identified nine deaths during the period of the study where people shot and killed an intruder.”
      So in order to be counted as defensive gun use the intruder must be shot and killed?

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