(courtesy washingtonpost.com)

“For the first time in more than 60 years, firearms and automobiles are killing Americans at an identical rate, according to new mortality data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” washingtonpost.com reports. “The convergence of the trend lines above is driven primarily by a sharp drop in the rate of motor vehicle fatalities since 1950.” And there you have it. Gun ownership isn’t getting more dangerous, driving is becoming less dangerous. In fact, the chart above is entirely misleading, as the article’s text indicates . . .

Gun homicide rates have actually fallen in recent years, but those gains have been offset by rising gun suicide rates. Today, suicides account for roughly two out of every three gun deaths.

Take a moment to take that in. If you remove firearms-related suicides from the overall stats, “gun violence” is falling. Those two lines wouldn’t meet. If you removed criminals from the population of Americans killed by “gun violence” the “gun violence” line would be bumping along the bottom of that chart. Oh wait, here’s the chart!

(courtesy pew research.org)

Gun control has no effect on suicide, as evidenced by “gun-free” Japan’s dramatically higher suicide rate (18.5 per 100k vs. U.S.’ 12.1 per 100k). But separating suicides from the “gun violence” total wouldn’t suit the assault media’s anti-gun agenda. To wit: the Post uses the top chart – prepared by the notorious anti-gun research Garen Wintermute – as a launch pad in its endless campaign for civilian disarmament. Like this:

The steady decline in motor vehicle deaths over the past 65 years can be attributed to a combination of improved technology and smarter regulation. The federal government mandated the presence of seat belts in the 1960s. The ’70s brought anti-lock brakes. The ’80s brought an increased focus on drunk driving and mandatory seat belt use. Airbags came along in the ’90s. More recent years have seen mandates on electronic stability systems, increased penalties for distracted driving and forthcoming requirements for rear-view cameras.

The result has been safer cars, safer roads, better drivers  and a decades-long decline in motor vehicle fatalities, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

By contrast, the history of American gun control regulation has been more erratic. Restrictions passed in earlier eras, such as the assault weapons ban, have been undone recently. During the George W. Bush administration, Congress passed laws that prohibited law enforcement from publicizing data showing where criminals obtained their guns and granted gunmakers immunity from some civil lawsuits.

Technological advances, like smart-gun technology that prevents people other than the owner from firing a gun, have been stymied by opposition from the National Rifle Association and from many gun owners. Modest regulatory changes, including universal background checks, enjoy overwhelming support from gun owners and the American public. But those, too, have been thwarted under pressure from gun-rights advocates and the NRA.

The result? A gun mortality rate that’s slightly higher than where it stood 50 years ago. Particularly vexing is that there may be ways to improve gun safety and reduce firearm deaths — particularly suicides — that haven’t even been thought of yet. But innovations in gun safety are hard to come by, in large part because of Congress’s longstanding ban on many types of federal gun research.

Yes! If we – and by “we” we mean Garen Wintermute and his right thinking supporters – could overcome the evil NRA’s opposition to secure a proper suckle on the federal tit to research our foregone conclusions, federal regulations could do for guns what they did for cars! Make them safer! Regulations like . . . the assault weapons ban. (Pay no attention to that taxpayer funded DOJ study that concluded that an assault weapon ban would have no impact on violent crime.) Modest regulatory changes!

Luckily, most Americans view death as a part of life, if they think about it at all. They put on their seatbelt and drive, enjoying the automobile’s mobility benefits without worrying about dying in a pile of twisted metal. By the same token, they handle their guns safely and (occasionally) shoot, enjoying firearms’ security benefits without worrying about shooting themselves in the head (while remembering the gun’s ability to prevent them and their family from getting shot in the head).

One more thing: the right to keep and bear arms is a natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right. Driving is a privilege. Apples and oranges people. Apples and oranges.

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37 Responses to Why It’s OK That Firearms and Automotive Death Rates Are Now “The Same”

  1. If I were to live my life according to the stats I would never go swimming, have a vegetarian diet, never drink alcohol, only take public transit and never make new friends (since new people are the most likely to hurt or kill you). If you want to call that living….

    • I like steak and guns and cigars and drinking, I meet strangers every day at work, I ride motorcycles a LOT, I own a lot of scary guns, and I have shit health insurance. Statistically speaking, I shouldn’t be alive right now!

    • The worrywarts don’t care if you enjoy your life. They just want you to work hard so that you contribute as much as possible to the economy while costing as little as possible. To them, the perfect citizen is one who never gets sick or injured and then drops dead the day he files for his Social Security.

    • Fat demonization comes from shoddy research from Ansel Keyes and the 22 nations, oops I mean 7 nations study. It includes cherry picked stats to create a correlation. “Researchers” after him have built on the shoddy study creating the diet nightmare we live today. Keep enjoying your steak, and your guns. There is nothing wrong with either.

      • Not sure what u mean by that, “Fat demonization is due to shoddy research.” According to Google, obesity is going to kill another 300,000 Americans this year. It’s actually a real problem in this country, more so than gun violence, or driving or a host of other things that get infinitely more media play.

      • I believe he is referring to the nutrient fat not being fat. Ingesting fat doesn’t make you fat, it’s ingesting carbs that makes you fat. Eating fat is actually good for you, eating carbs especially refined carbs is bad for you. Keyes’ and Atkins’ research showing fat is bad for you is horribly flawed by biased samples, sample selection bias, small samples, poor controls, you name it.

  2. Honest question here; are there more guns or cars in this country? I’m guessing more drivers than gun owners, but more guns than cars.

  3. Why is driving a privilege? Pretty sure it’s a constitutionally protected right, but we’ve let ourselves be lied to…

    • Seems like if those magicians in black robes paid to play SCOTUS can find a Constitutional right to kill your unborn baby or for gay marriage they should be able to find a Constitutional right to drive. They are obviously just not trying hard enough.

      The Founding Fathers included the creation of “Post roads” right there in the Constitution – what do they think, we’re going to walk everywhere?

      • I believe “post roads” were mandated by constitutional obligation to provide mail service. As far as a constitutional right to drive, I think you can find support for a right to travel which you might be able to argue is a right to drive, using similar arguments to that of the Second Amendment being intended for citizens to have the right to keep and bear arms equivalent to those used in current military service and not just muskets. But being as the practice of licensing is well established for just about all means of motorized travel, good luck with that.

        • It’s not that owning a car or driving a car are a privilege … owning a car falls under right to property, and driving it is just utilizing your personal property. Same with a blender and a toaster; I own both, I don’t consider blending or toasting a privilege.

          It *is* about driving the car on public roadways that is a privilege, from a legal standpoint. Likewise, the claims that “you have to have a license, registration, and insurance to own a car” arguments are invalid. Again, you only need license, insurance, and registration to drive a vehicle on public roadways, not to own one or drive on private property. If “guns were treated like cars” in this respect, there would be no legal hoops to jump through to own any firearm you wanted (or as many as you wanted) but you’d have to get a license to carry in public. Just like now (in most states). I’m sure they’d like to tack on registration (effectively done with the license) and insurance.

    • I believe that the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” would be violated in restricting the access to vehicles without due process or just cause.

      • Except that’s from the Declaration of Independence, which doesn’t carry the force of law, not the Constitution, which does.

  4. Dude you know that facts in context make anti-gun people upset and then they need to go to their” safe space and hug their blankly for a while, so thank you and keep it up.

  5. Anyone happen to notice the very prominent “gun violence epidemic” at the right end of the chart? Me neither.

  6. According to the signs I see on the side of the highways in Ohio, traffic fatalities are up 9% over last year. Maybe it’s just a fear tactic.

  7. Guns have been around for centuries before cars were even a dream. All of the best safety advances for guns were made long before the modern era. Like with cars, the biggest strides in reducing accidental deaths by guns came when proper training became commonplace; thanks to the NRA, we are at a 100 year low for unintentional shootings.

  8. I expect the death rate curve would be bouncing off zero if we didn’t count the deaths of criminals killed by police, private citizens defending themselves, or, especially, other criminals.

    It hasn’t been mentioned on TTAG, perhaps because it’s not gun-related, but there have been two recent incidents (Oklahoma State homecoming and the Las Vegas strip) where a mass murderer’s weapon was an automobile. As far back as 1989, when a career criminal shot up a schoolyard in Stockton, California, I wondered why he didn’t just drive back and forth across the playground running over children. Apparently, bad guys have finally figured this out. I find it grimly amusing that the people who have hysterics when they encounter someone peacefully carrying openly now have to worry about everyone who drives past them.

    • Yes, guns are very much like cars in terms of risks. Used carefully they are great, they are dangerous if misused. If you can trust me to be reasonably safe with a car you should trust me to be reasonably safe with a gun.

  9. Did the chuckleheads at the Washington Post actually attribute at least a portion of the “steady decline in motor vehicle deaths over the past 65 years” to “forthcoming requirements for rear-view cameras”? That’s either really sloppy writing or those forthcoming rear-view cameras are extraordinarily effective!

  10. Two points:

    1) Suicides are not acts of “violence,” whether committed with a gun or otherwise.

    2) Most automobile-related deaths are accidental. Let’s compare rates of accidental deaths, shall we?

    After all: that’s the argument in the linked article, isn’t it? That more research needs to be funded for firearms “safety” as evidenced by the similar fatality rates of automobiles and firearms?

    Homicide and suicide have nothing to do with firearms safety. All the firearms safety research in the world will have nonimpact on homicide or suicide.

    Actual, accidental fatalities due to firearms are so rare that firearms safety research would likely already be far down the curve of diminishing returns.

    But then, the true goal of those who wrote the linked article has nothing to do with reducing firearms-related safety incidents.

    • This. If cars were the preferred weapon of choice for homicides, no amount of manufacturing regulation (safety devices), ownership regulation (licensing), or use regulation (laws) would change that, short of an outright ban or very heavily restricted ownership. Just like guns.
      Guns are already made to very exacting standards, and only their accidental or intentionally illegals misuse by people against other people is the reason there is any firearm-related deaths or injuries at all.

    • Good job, Chip. This is the key point I was scrolling to see whether anyone had yet addressed.

      Not only are the vast majority of auto deaths accidents, but they’re accidents caused by poor driver behavior, not vehicle malfunction. None of which is comparable or relatable to firearm deaths, which are overwhelming intentional; either by suicide or by criminal activity.

  11. “The result? A gun mortality rate that’s slightly higher than where it stood 50 years ago.”

    Well now a little historical perspective is in order. “Gun violence” increased dramatically during the decades of increasing gun control. It has dropped significantly with recent gains on the side of gun rights. That we haven’t gotten back down to the levels of 50 years ago, well that’s just part of the enduring gun control hangover. Give it time, you don’t reset cultural norms immediately by passing a few open carry, castle doctrine, and stand your ground laws. Give it time.

  12. The wapo article gets it wrong on alcohol specifically, and wrong on a lot of things generally.

    Wapo false claim “They (gun) kill more people than falls do each year, and considerably more people than alcohol.”

    From NIH.gov:
    ” Alcohol-Related Deaths:
    Nearly 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women10) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.9
    In 2013, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 10,076 deaths (30.8 percent of overall driving fatalities).”

    ref:http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

  13. When talking per capita ownership of each, i.e. a vehicle and a handgun:

    Vehicle death rate is 7% higher than handgun death rate.
    Removing suicides by handgun from the above number, the automobile death rate is 40% higher than the handgun death rate.

    Source: My own independent analysis

  14. 70% of all “gun deaths” are suicide. Of the total homicides about 80% are “gang-related” and the total homicides include justifiable homicides. When thinking about stats you have to consider how evenly distributed the stats are. As long as you aren’t a gang member or don’t live in their territory you are very safe from random violence. Car accident stats, on the other hand, are pretty evenly distributed. There is a much higher likelihood you will be injured or killed in a car accident you could do nothing about than ever hear a gunshot on the street.

    • actually, suicides by gun are just around 45%. 70 is a number I’ve seen thrown around here and, according to CDC, that’s just too high. It’s high enough that if we pull THAT number out, other numbers make sense, as in my comment above. let’s not fudge the numbers to make our side look better, its fine and defensible the way it is.

  15. If you add things like falling, drowning, drug interactions, poisoning, and heart disease to the chart, guns and auto accidents would barely bump off the bottom.

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