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Josh Sugarmann

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) is nothing if not clever. For one thing, they call themselves the Violence Policy Center not the Crusade for Civilian Disarmament. When it comes to feeding context-less stats and half-truths about firearms fatalities to the mainstream media VPC jefe Josh Sugarmann is The Man. The latest meme (as dutifully if not diligently reported by and dozens of other news orgs) “gun deaths” exceed “traffic fatalities” in 12 states and the District of Colombia (list after the jump). See what he’s done there? If not, remember that these stats include firearms-related suicides. Take them out of the mix and the number of “gun deaths” sinks below automobile accidents in most of the states on the list. Remove gangland shootings from the data and the sting is gone from the VPC’s tale. KTAR mentions the mix. The VPC “study” does not.

• Alaska: 144 gun deaths, 71 motor vehicle deaths

• Arizona: 931 gun deaths, 795 motor vehicle deaths

• Colorado: 555 gun deaths, 487 motor vehicle deaths

• District of Columbia: 99 gun deaths, 38 motor vehicle deaths

• Illinois: 1,064 gun deaths, 1,042 motor vehicle deaths

• Louisiana: 864 gun deaths, 722 motor vehicle deaths

• Maryland: 538 gun deaths, 514 motor vehicle deaths

• Michigan: 1,076 gun deaths, 1,063 motor vehicle deaths

• Nevada: 395 gun deaths, 289 motor vehicle deaths

• Oregon: 458 gun deaths, 324 motor vehicle deaths

• Utah: 314 gun deaths, 274 motor vehicle deaths

• Virginia: 875 gun deaths, 728 motor vehicle deaths

• Washington: 609 gun deaths, 554 motor vehicle deaths

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  1. Robert – you might also want to add that their “traffic fatality” statistics likely leave out pedestrian deaths, which add about 5,000 to the total number, around about 15%.

    Josh Sugarmann is the other sides secret weapon. Very few people outside of this debate (and probably only half within the debate) know him by name, but he’s largely responsible for the Gun Control movement’s successes over the past thirty or so years, from the Hughes Amendment to the Assault Weapon Ban (he invented the term). If you think Bloomberg is bad, you don’t know Joshie.

    • I know of him. Sugarmann along with Amitai Etzioni back in 1991 not only called for total civilian disarmament through Kennedy-Schumer style legislation, but by applying the latter’s “communitarian” theories sought to isolate and ostracize gun owners as pariahs in their own neighborhoods complete with Cuban style block committees going around banging on suspected gun owners’ doors, telling them to “turn your guns in” because the broader “community” was angry for their failure to do so and that their children would suffer even greater pariahdom.

      Google Etzioni. He’s a gungrabbing madman enraged by his own personal lack of total state power to enforce his views.

  2. Yeah these numbers are pure BS. Washington state has a yearly homicide total that hovers around 150 – 160 or so. Most of those are committed with firearms, but even so, that’s a long way from the traffic fatalities.

    • You forgot suicides (and to a much lesser extend, accidents and legal intervention). Also, the auto fatality numbers likely came from 2010 or so, when there was a drop in auto fatalities due to the recession (they’ve since rebounded). During the same time the suicide rate has continued to rise.

      Like anything else the grabbers tell you this is a case of opportunistically taking advantage of tragedy and chance to get what they want. Or it’s a conspiracy. Either one.

      • That’s exactly my point. Suicides are independent of means, so lumping them in as a “gun deaths” statistic and trying to drive policy from that is BS.

        • Absolutely; I agree, but there’s still a distinction between the accuracy of the numbers themselves and the implications of those numbers.

        • I see the source of your misunderstanding. I don’t doubt the numbers are correct. The problem is they’re meaningless and deliberately mendacious. That’s what makes them BS and BS of the worst kind: correct data that means nothing.

          Clearly wrong numbers are no problem. They take very little time to deal with and you can just move on. Correct numbers that don’t mean anything are active blockers to knowledge because you have to spend time deconstructing them first to get people to understand why, even though the numbers are right, they don’t have anything to do with the discussion. It’s data as obfuscation instead of information.

    • Just checked the UCR for 2010. There were 117 homicides and neg homicides in Oregon.
      Quite a difference. Especially since this is ALL homicides. Gun, knife, rope, fists, etc.

  3. “gun deaths” exceed “traffic fatalities”

    The obvious conclusion is that we need more traffic fatalities.

  4. You know what just occurred to me about the suicides?

    Active and retired Vets are killing themselves at a rate of about 22 per day right now. That’s about 8000 of the 38,000 suicides. Police also have a much higher suicide rate than the general population.

    Firearms related suicides per year are around 19,000. I wonder how many of Vet and LEO suicides are firearms related? My guess is most of them. And how do you suppose you can take guns away from soliders and police?

    • Don,

      You are right on the money. I lost my Marine to a self-inflicted gunshot wound caused by less-than-adequately treated PTSD.

      We are losing our fine young men and women that served honorably and our government ignores the problem.

      I wish the liberal do-gooders, hand-wringers and bloody-shirt wavers would be as concerned about that epidemic as they are about the relatively few people that are lost in “mass shootings”.

      Not trying to minimize anyone’s loss though the acts of lunacy, but at least acknowledge that there is a problem with the VA and the current method in which we treat our veterans.

      • There’s always been a problem with the VA. It’s as if America considers its war fighters to be disposable assets with a short life cycle.

        • How true………

          At least they didn’t leave them in the sand box like they did with the old AAVs and LARs………….

          How nice is that, survive 3 tours and come back to a “meh” attitude from the drones in the VA?

  5. If you want to make an argument about the intrinsic accidental fatal risk of an item in society you really ought to compare fatal accidents to fatal accidents. So compare vehicular accidental death to firearms accidental death.

    • Excellent point! Although it’s obviously not the author’s intention to demonstrate that guns are more likely to accidentally kill people. And on the flip side, we can’t deny that guns are way more likely to intentionally kill people than are cars. Still, you’re absolutely right that it’s an apples to oranges comparison.

      • Yes, also the reason why we need to take drivers tests and get drivers licenses is because cars are way harder to operate safely than guns and way more accident prone than guns. Just look at the stats of car accidents vs gun accidents, normalized by the numbers of each item.

  6. Yep, I did a more detailed analysis on my blog, but the other thing to note is that even after you factor out suicides, the numbers for DC seem “odd” because the number of gun deaths (exclusive of suicides) is almost exactly the same as auto-deaths.

    It turns out that approximately 2/3 of all auto deaths are RURAL, and DC doesn’t have any, so DC has a disproportionally high ratio of gun to auto deaths.

    Utah also looks odd, until you note that in Utah 85% of the gun deaths are suicides, vs about 2/3 in the other states, and that Utah’s rural auto death rate is lower than normal, perhaps due to the number of Mormons and the lower rate of alcoholism — altho that hasn’t been proven as a causality.

  7. FYI, if anyone at TTAG can get me nice big datasets in some convenient format like a spreadsheet I’ll compulsively slice them any which way you want.

  8. You really have to have a twisted mind to suggest that an assault weapons ban or instant background check prevents suicides. You have to have a lot of chutzpah to call yourself a gun safety advocacy group when it says right on your website that your mission is to ban handguns. I keep asking myself “are people really that stupid” to believe these stats, and i keep coming to the conclusion “yes.”

    I am busy compiling the suicide % of firearms back to 1900 and the interesting thing is that the firearms share of suicides looks like it has gone up, even as the suicide rate has gone down.

  9. Why not include suicides? If you want a reason to take away our guns, suicide prevention works just as well as heat-of-the-moment redneck road rage. I’m sure the VPC, et al, feel that suicides would be prevented as easily as gun homicides with a nice across-the-board ban.

    • That is the anti’s general view in that removal of firearms will prevent suicide. While that appears reasonable on the surface, suicide is a much more complicated issue that can’t truly even be prevented by isolation and constant monitoring.

      People are inventive and once focused and determined will find a way to end their life, firearms, traditional weapons or not.

      • Here’s a neat, and sad fact: Nearly gun and violence free South Korea has a suicide rate that is almost double our suicide rate and homicide rate combined.

        Another little known outlier in the gun debtae: Greenland! Their murder rate fluctuates wildly year to year, but some years it hits the low twenties (per 100k population). Their suicide rate is the highest on Earth – a staggering 100+ per hundred thousand. Don’t worry though, they’ve got pretty strong gun laws, so those murders and suicides aren’t the sad kind.

  10. National suicide rate is a function of a bunch of factors, and gun ownership is probably the least important. Japan has a very high rate, and no civilian gun ownership. Switzerland has widespread gun possession via their Reserves, and a very low suicide rate. The US, a multi-cultural society, has a suicide rate somewhere in the middle.

  11. I wonder if their “gun death” statistics include police shootings? Security guards?

    Figures don’t lie, but liars certainly do figure……

  12. Please don’t forget that before Heller, these were the same people pushing for outright bans on the private ownership of firearms, i doubt their intentions or feelings have changed much since then… They’ve mostly gone silent on their original enemy, handguns, after the SCOTUS rubbed their nose in the Constitution like a dog that’s pissed on the carpet, so now they’re going after anything they think they can get away with for now. Let’s see if the SCOTUS rubbing their nose in their own piss one more time will be enough to get them off “banning weapons” train and onto some other pointless crusade against anything that goes bump in the night.

  13. Suicide rate in the US (Lots of Guns): 12.0 per 100k
    Suicide rate in the UK (Disarmed): 11.8 per 100k.

    There is no statistically significant difference between the US and UK suicide rates. However, there is statistically significant difference in gun ownership between the two countries. I wonder how all those Brits commit suicide without having access to guns? Perhaps Josh can explain that to me.


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