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Reply #18


Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Mon Dec 31, 2012, 10:42 AM

18. OK.

As to your first point, the number of gun deaths per year in the US is about 30,000. That breaks down to about 10K homicides and 20K suicides, plus about 1K accidents, and about 500 self-defense shootings. Just as a point of comparison, the total number of Americans who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and 9-11 combined is about 10,000. The number of US soldiers who died in the single worst year of Vietnam was about 16,000. So guns claim about twice as many American lives per year than Vietnam at its worst.

I wasn't alive during Vietnam, but here's a question for those who were. When people pointed out that we were sending young Americans to die by the tens of thousands, was it a popular argument to say that, really as a fraction of the whole population, ten thousand deaths is not that much, so stop making such a big fuss?

Anyway, if you want the rate, what you do is divide 30K by the population of 300M, or about one per 10,000. That's something like 10X higher than the average of other industrialized countries.

In fact, 1/10K actually understates the amount of damage guns do for a number of reasons. First, it doesn't take into account injuries and other side effects of gun violence -- social scientists have estimated the dollar cost of gun violence at $100B per year. Second, gun deaths usually strike younger people than other causes of death, which means that the amount of life expectancy loss is greater per death. The average American loses about 100 days of life to guns, whereas lung cancer, which claims a lot more lives, only accounts for a life expectancy loss of about 200 days.

As to your idea that the availability of a tool doesn't affect the amount of murder, this is completely false. Most murders don't start out with intent to kill. They start out either as arguments or as other crimes that end up escalating. Since guns are far more deadly than other weapons, such situations result in murder far more frequently if guns are available. This is one of the reasons why the US has by far the highest homicide rate among wealthy nations, even though our rates of violent crimes overall are not unusually high.

The situation is similar with suicides. A lot of suicidal impulses are temporary, and the availability of easy and lethal means (i.e. a gun) often means the difference between a completed suicide attempt and survival. This is why many studies have found that individual gun ownership significantly increases suicide risk.

Here are some links to research. Gun ownership correlates positively with both homicide and suicide rates. Not surprisingly, all of the correlation is due to increased gun homicides and gun suicides.
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/
http://home.uchicago.edu/~ludwigj/papers/JPubE_guns_2006FINAL.pdf
http://www.iansa.org/system/files/Risks%20and%20Benefits%20of%20a%20Gun%20in%20the%20Home%202011.pdf

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