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Much Ado About Firearms

Firearms are easy to fear and hate. They are easy to operate, easy to conceal, easy to acquire, and easy to maintain. Unfortunately, public perception of them is also easy to manipulate for political and emotional reasons. If asked, most people are quick to give a solid answer on where they stand on the issue of private firearm ownership. But if asked why they hold such opinions, the answers quickly divulge into emotional and factually inconsistent quips.

While even a single death for any reason is unfortunate, deaths by firearms is a wildly exaggerated phenomenon. Here are the facts from 2010, I urge you to draw your own conclusions:

- 308,745,538 total population
- 2,468,435 total deaths
- 799.5 per 100,000

- Heart disease: 597,689
- 193.6 per 100,000
- 24.2% of all deaths

- Cancer: 574,743
- 186.2 per 100,000
- 23.3% of all deaths

- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
- 39.1 per 100,000
- 4.9% of all deaths

- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364
- 12.4 per 100,000
- 1.6% of all deaths

Then we come to an oft-touted figure: “Firearms injured or killed 105,177 Americans in 2010.” One hundred thousand is an alarmingly large number. Once again, it is this alarmism which gets our heart-strings moving and causes people to make irrational gut-reaction decisions. Looking more closely, these numbers become a little less alarming.

- only 30% (31,672) were deaths
- of these, 61% (19,392) were suicides
- only 35% (11,078) were murders
- the remainder (1,202) were unintentional

- Murder by firearm: 11,078
- 3.6 per 100,000
- 0.4% of all deaths

This means you are three and a half times more likely to kill yourself than you are to die from external violence by firearm. But let us see a few more of the less likely ways to die to get a better comparison.

- 42,917 poisonings
- 13.9 per 100,000
- 1.7% of all deaths

- 35,332 motor vehicles
- 11.4 per 100,000
- 1.4% of all deaths

- 26,852 falls (!!)
- 8.7 per 100,000
- 1.1% of all deaths

- 10,276 intestinal infection (nearly the same as firearm homicide)
- 3.3 per 100,000
- 0.4% of all deaths

- 5,181 non-firearm homicide (about half as many)
- 1.7 per 100,000
- 0.2% of all deaths


References:
Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence
Census 2010
BLS
CDC
 
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