Death, Guns, and Perspective

I have been hearing a great deal of talk about gun control, gun violence, and gun rights lately. It got me wondering what some of the real statistics were and how it fit in with the rest of life. I found a copy of the October 2012 edition of the National Vital Statistics Reports entitled “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2011”. It gives a useful breakdown of how people die in the U.S. Here are some take-outs from the information:

The population midway through 2011 was about 311,000,000. In 2011 there were 3,953,593 births and 2,512,873 deaths. So, about 0.8% of the population died and about 1.3% of the population was born. Of the 2.5 million deaths, the top 5 categories of causes were as follows:

  1. Diseases of the heart – 596,339 (24%)
  2. Malignant Neoplasms (tumors) – 575,313 (23%)
  3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases – 143,382 (6%)
  4. Cerebrovascular diseases (strokes) – 128,931 (5%)
  5. Accidents – 122,777 (5%)

Seeing accidents so high got me wondering how many people die of gun accidents. You hear from time to time of these things happening on the news and a close friend of mine lost a family member due to a gun accident.  So, here are some take-outs from the accidental death category (not complete):

  1. Motor vehicle accidents – 34,677
  2. Falls (as in falling to your death or an elderly person falling and not being able to get back up, etc) – 26,631
  3. Firearms – 851

So, it appears you are significantly (31X) more likely to accidentally fall to your death than accidentally get killed with a firearm. Another concern some folks have is that a firearm can be used to kill yourself. Here are some statistics about that:

  1. Total number of suicides – 38,285
  2. Use of a firearm – 19,766 (52%)
  3. All other uses – 18,519 (48%)

So, there is certainly some credence to the fact that firearms are a preferred tool for suicide. However, I think that the fact that about half the people who commit suicide find another means also makes the point that if someone is going to do it, they will find a way. A gun may be convenient, but it isn’t necessary.

Then there is the question of gun violence and people being killed with a firearm. Here are the stats:

  1. Total homicides – 15,953
  2. Homicides by firearms – 11,101 (70%)
  3. All other homicides – 4,852 (30%)

So, if someone is going to kill me, they will probably do it with a gun. Since it’s not possible to keep guns out of the hands of someone who wants to kill me, it seems like my best defense is to have a weapon of similar capabilities. Quite frankly, a knife, a stick, or even a 911 call will not reduce my odds of being shot at. However, a weapon to shoot back with may reduce my chances of being murdered.

So here is my biased interpretation of the data. There are an insignificantly small number of accidental deaths from firearms compared to all of the many other accidental deaths. Although a firearm is used in a significant number of suicides, I doubt that a lack of firearms would reduce the number of suicides. Finally, if my life is truly in danger from another person, it’s going to be because they have a gun. Unlike in the movies, the bad guy with the gun always wins when he has a gun and you don’t.

I think, in short, that the concern about average folks carrying a gun are overblown. We’ve already seen that a person intent on killing many people will find a way, even if it’s with improvised explosives in a pressure cooker. We can’t make the general populace safe by disarming the law abiding citizens. Quite frankly, we can’t make the general populace safe period. The world isn’t a safe place. We all take some level of a sense of security from different things. Some folks might have expensive security systems on their home or vehicle. Some hire body guards. Others build shelters, and still others lobby for larger police forces with cameras on every street corner and UAVs in the sky.

As for me, my sense of security come from the Lord. But I’m not opposed to a Glock in my pocket.


About Michael Wigle

I am a servant of Christ who is married and has two children and four grandchildren. For employment, I am the IT Manager and the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I also have a wide variety of interests from economics and politics to hiking and caving.
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2 Responses to Death, Guns, and Perspective

  1. lwk2431 says:

    “As for me, my sense of security come from the Lord. But I’m not opposed to a Glock in my pocket.”

    Amen, brother!


  2. Well thought out, well written and very true

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