first published on May 1, 2016 by Matt Silvey
The short answer is “no.”
But to hear Obama, Sanders, Clinton, and just about every other liberal politician talk, you would think that innocent people are dying by the thousands, daily. This illusion is only aided by the 24 hour news cycle that thrives on carnage and runs the story about a freak occurrence (statistically speaking) over and over until that is the only thing their viewers can remember. Leaders, politicians and organizations from other countries keep telling us that we have a gun problem. Anti-gun celebrities and organizations here in the US are constantly telling us we have a gun problem.
So, with all that hype, we have to ask ourselves, do we really have a gun problem in America?
I recently saw a meme, one that had a few typos and some unsubstantiated data in it, which is why I am not sharing it, that got me to thinking, and doing some digging, and some analyzing. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) tracks causes of death here in the US. The numbers I am using are from the most recently available report, which covers the causes of death from 2013. Additionally, the FBI tracks information on all homicides and releases it every year in their Uniform Crime Report (UCR), so some information will come from the UCR for 2013.
So, let’s actually examine the gun death data that the CDC has made available
Total Deaths by Firearm – 33,636
Suicides by Firearm – 21,175 (63% of all gun deaths)
Homicides by Firearm – 11,208 (33.5% of all gun deaths)*
– Justifiable Homicides by Firearm – 681 (6% of gun CDC gun homicides were justifiable)
Accidental Deaths by Firearm – 505 (1.5% of all gun deaths)
Unknown circumstances – 748 (2% left over )**
* This number is questionable as it vastly differs from the number reported by the FBI
** Unable to determine the circumstances of these deaths from the CDC or the FBI UCR data for 2013
In compiling this data, I noticed some major discrepancies in the numbers. While the FBI does not track the number of deaths in general, they do track homicides, and have done so for a very long time. In that regard, the CDC numbers and the FBI numbers are not remotely close.
FBI data regarding homicides in 2013
Total number of Homicides – 12,253
Homicides by Firearm – 8,454 (significantly lower than the number reported by the CDC)
– Justifiable Homicides with Firearm – 681 (8% of FBI gun homicides were justifiable)
While the CDC is good at tracking causes of death, I tend to believe the FBI is better at tracking crime, and at understanding what legally constitutes a “homicide,” and therefore, from this point forward, I will be using their number for the firearm homicide data.
Corrected Data on Gun Related Deaths – 2013
Total Deaths by Firearm – 33,636
Suicides by Firearm – 21,175 (63% of gun deaths)
Homicides by Firearm – 8,454 (25% of gun deaths)
– Justifiable Homicides by Firearm – 681 (8% of gun homicides were justifiable)
Accidental Deaths by Firearm – 505 (1.5% of gun deaths)
Unknown circumstances – 3,502 (10.5% of gun deaths) *
* Unable to determine circumstances based on CDC or FBI data
The meme I saw, the one that prompted this article, stated that 80% of homicides were “gang related,” but that number is contested by a number of sources, and it is not possible to back up since the statistics on that are not easily tracked. While that statistic has been attributed to the homicides in Chicago, it would not necessarily hold true for the rest of the nation.
I will say this, and I realize this is strictly anecdotal, but in my experience as a cop who spent 15 years in a patrol car, 95% or more of the homicides that occur in the jurisdiction where I work are either 1)gang related, 2) drug related (most of those involving “legal” marijuana) or 3) criminal on criminal. It is the rare occasion when a normal, everyday citizen is murdered, and even rarer that they are killed with a gun.
Viewing Data in Context
The current population of the United States of America, per the 2014 census, is 318.9 million people. We are a large country with a huge, diverse population.
Considering that, you have a 0.010547507% chance of being killed by a gun, and that is when looking at the total number of gun deaths.
If you are not suicidal, you only have a 0.003907494% chance of being killed by a gun.
If you are careful with guns, and avoid drugs and other criminal activity, your odds of being killed with a gun only continue to improve, going from monumentally slim to astronomically thin. Rather than using 80% gang related number, or my estimation of 95% gang, drug or criminal activity related, let’s just say 50% of homicides are innocent victims who did nothing to get themselves killed (every cop is currently laughing at that number). That would mean that you have a 0.001325493% chance, as a normal, law abiding person of being murdered with a gun.
On the other hand, looking at the very data provided by the CDC, you have a 0.009472561% chance of accidentally falling to your death, a 0.010600188% chance of being killed in a motor vehicle accident and a 0.012182815% chance of dying from an accidental poisoning.
When we look at the leading causes of death in the United States, it brings your chances of being killed by a gun into even better perspective.
As an American, on an annual basis, you have a 0.191629037% chance of dying from heart disease, a 0.183405769% chance of dying from some form of cancer, and a 0.046787394% chance of dying from some sort of respiratory illness.
If you are paying the slightest amount of attention here, you would note that your chances of being murdered with a gun are a huge statistical improbability, and you would also note that there are far more pressing causes of death than “gun violence.”
Further compounding the ridiculousness of the argument for more gun control is the fact that only 3% of recovered guns that were tied to any sort of crime at all, not just homicides, were legally purchased. So, since gun control laws only affect people who legally purchase and possess firearms, you, as an American citizen, have a 0.00003976% (0.28 in 700,000) chance of being murdered with a gun by someone who legally purchased it.
For sake of comparison, you have a 0.000142857% (1 in 700,000) chance of being struck by lightning. Yes, you are seeing that correctly. If you are a generally law abiding person living in the United Sates, you are four times more likely to be struck by lightning in a given year than you are to be murdered by someone who legally purchased a gun.
Bearing all that in mind, can we please drop all this nonsense and start talking about issues that actually deserve attention?