A few days ago, RF penned what is now the first “last word” post, which made me think of a great Autoblog article sent to me by my car-cum-gun friend, LostLamb. Driven, if you will, by my urge to have the last word, the post you’re now reading was bound to happen. But before we dive into Pete Bigelow’s “Guns don’t actually kill as many Americans as cars” article, a personal note about my crashed woods truck, seen above . . .
Leave it to my wife to rear-end somebody who was driving a friend to PTSD therapy. PTSD that stemmed from a previous car crash…of all the people in the world to run into. Oy. After a complete freak-out and some serious hyperventilating by said PTSD sufferer, it turned out that everyone was completely fine. My wife and PTSD lady are friends on Facebook now, which also figures.
Car crashes don’t always have such happy endings, though, as 33,736 people lost their lives by vehicular means in 2014. As the media has been so excited to point out, that number is pretty darn close to the 33,599 deaths by ballistic means in the same year. Of course, the messaging has primarily been an attempt to make it sound like gun deaths have “caught up to” traffic deaths, despite the fact of the matter being entirely the opposite. Pete makes this clear, and also points out that not only have the two figures not actually merged yet, but that there’s no reason to believe they will soon:
Firearm deaths have plateaued over the past three years, while early estimates show traffic fatalities will increase by 8 to 14 percent, the sharpest year-over-year rise in more than six decades. It’s possible the lines won’t cross for the foreseeable future.
Now, if you’re looking at a bit under 34,000 deaths by car as well as by gun and thinking you’re therefore at equal likelihood of dying via either means, you’re thinking exactly how the anti-gun crowd wants you to. This is precisely the “gun violence” messaging playbook. But, it’s a sham. And Pete clearly, skillfully explains why:
…none of the 33,736 killed in motor-vehicle crashes intended to die when they departed on their morning commutes or stepped off the curb to cross the street. The total number of gun deaths reported, however, includes those who used firearms to commit suicide.
As we’re all well aware, that has been around 2/3 of the death-by-gun figures for many years. In 2014, suicides accounted for 21,334 of the 33,599 gun deaths (which is 63.5%. I’m not sure how Pete came up with the 71.6% he states in his article). If we’re speaking of rational fears and dedicating resources towards safety measures, etc., then we’re now looking at 12,000-some-odd people who died unintentionally by gunshot compared to the ~34,000 by motor vehicle.
Pete isn’t done there, though. He points out that non-suicide gun deaths…
…include homicides, “legal interventions” (as the CDC calls them), accidental shootings, and undetermined deaths…
So some percentage of non-suicide deaths — the scary ones that are ostensibly out of our control — are “legal interventions.” Another phrase for that is “justifiable homicides.” Yet another might be “defensive gun uses.” At any rate, a police officer kills an attacker and that’s +1 to the antis’ “gun violence” statistic. I can think of a few good ways to avoid being legally intervened against, so scratch those numbers from the list of gun death worry, too.
In fact, there is a lot of speculation around accidental shootings and how many of those are actually suicides. No real way to quantify it, of course, but with the various stigma around committing suicide, it’s apparent that many families choose to label those deaths as accidents instead. And before we get too terribly caught up in traffic deaths and gun deaths:
Lest you think gun deaths and motor vehicle crashes are vying for the dubious title of top cause of unintentional fatalities in America, that distinction belongs to drug overdoses, which killed a whopping 42,032 Americans in 2014…
Heck, falls accounted for 33,018 deaths in 2014. This new CDC web app is great, by the way.
Pete’s article is worth the quick read, as it makes a great point — one that’s rarely heard — in a succinct fashion. I’d highly recommend that you stick around for the comments section on the article as well, which, sorted by popularity (up-votes vs. down-votes), is pretty heartening for the pro-gun crowd. The most popular comment:
And he actually means 13.5x. Which I may not have mentioned if not for being driven, if you will, by my urge to have the last word…