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With the gun control topics being hot in the media lately, I decided take a look at the crime statistics and put them into perspective for people. People tend to overestimate low probability events happening to them especially when the media starts filling the airwaves with the same story for weeks at a time.

So to start out...

You are about 6,515 times more likely to get murdered than you are to win Powerball Lotto on a single ticket.

But here's the kicker: even getting murdered is a very low probability event (which really puts into context how unlikely it is to win the lotto!). Murder is not even in the top ten leading causes of death.

So let's put some additional numbers into context. FBI stats showed that in 2011 there were 12,664 murders. Of that total, 8,583 (68%) were committed with a firearm.

If we assume a uniform distribution of the events below, then you are:

  • causes of death69 times more likely to die from heart disease
  • 67 times more likely to die from cancer
  • 16 times more likely to die from respiratory diseases
  • 15 times more likely to die from a stroke
  • 14 times more likely to die from an accident
  • 8 times more likely to die from diabetes
  • 6 times more likely to die from the flu or pneumonia
  • 4.5 times more likely to know someone who committed suicide
  • 3.5 times more likely to die in a car crash
  • 2 times more likely to know someone who committed suicide with a firearm

..... than get murdered with a firearm.

But of course, these events are not uniformly distributed. These events would have conditional distribution that depend on life choices. If you live a healthy life, with a good diet and exercise, then your risk of death by disease decreases and the odds are overstated. But the same can be said for murder. People usually murder people that they know who are in their network and community and so one's associations and neighborhood is a major factor. So if you live in a safe neighborhood and don't deal with shady criminal types, your odds of getting murdered by firearm are also overstated. If you live in a safe neighborhood and eat healthy do these odds decrease at the same rate? It is probably impossible to determine because this would require a level of research on data that probably doesn't even exist.  But juxtaposing the situations above really put it into context at how rare an event such as firearm murder really is even though there will be a nightly news story on someone who was murdered because 1 person dies every hour by firearm on average. The 69 who died every hour from heart disease don't make the cut for nightly news sensationalism.

To wrap things up, it is interesting to break down the murder statistics a little more to get a sense of the community point I mentioned above. Generally speaking, people of the same race kill each other. In 2011, FBI data show 90% of all black murder victims were committed by another black offender. Only 7% of black victims were killed by a white/Hispanic (the FBI includes Hispanics in the white category) offender. Contrarily, the rate for blacks murdering whites/Hispanics is twice as high with 14% of all white/Hispanic victims being murdered by a black offender. And finally, 82% of all white/Hispanic murders were committed by a white/Hispanic offender. Shockingly, black offenders committed 48% of all murders even though they only represent 12.7% of the American population.

Murder is also a young man's game. 90% of known murders were committed by men and most murders are committed by 20 to 24 year olds. In fact, 80% of murders are committed by people under the age of 35.

And it should also be pointed out that

The next time you find yourself in a discussion with an gun control activist spouting off about the high incidence of murders committed by guns, remind him that the cheeseburger and Coke lunch that he has been eating for the last 20 years is more likely to kill him than someone with a gun is.

 


Comments   

 
+1 # John 2013-08-02 12:12
Lets make this as remedial as one can so the fact challenged can follow:
Chicago, a Gun Free Zone, more Gun Murders than and other city that allows Concealed Carry.

That's it!!!
 
 
+2 # HappyGunOwner 2013-04-04 20:37
"Ban or control private sales. It makes no sense to me that a person could go out, buy a gun, and then sell it to someone who cannot pass a background check. That just seems idiotic?"

Not really into this approach myself. I'm not a criminal, but I may want to sell or trade guns from someone. I bought an AR-15 from a friend who had it all decked out a while back because he needed the money and I wanted his gun. It wasn't like I was planning to use it illegally. Why would we assume that all private sales would for illegal activity. To me, that is idiotic. I'm sure there are ass holes out there with bad intentions, but don't penalize the 99%+ that are not for bad intentions. We both have the same hobbies and appreciate/resp ect each other small arsenal.

Why would someone not be allowed to sell their guns? They are investments for many. Some are collectors, some people grow out of and want something different. The aftermarket gun market is huge. Controlling it would only be a PITA and people wouldn't follow. Like SAL said, there are no records and unless we wanted a gun registry (which I also oppose for other reasons), that couldn't be enforced.

I don't live in fear, but I am well armed and ready to protect my family from even a guy holding a knife in my kitchen. Im not going to try and make an even fight if I am protecting myself or my wife/children. A person invading my space illegally will have something coming, and it wont be shotgun blasts into the air like Biden thinks will help.

Anyhow, very interesting article IMHO. Thanks.
 
 
# sirbee 2013-02-14 15:07
First and foremost, you need to remove the two saying "you are more likely to know someone" as you know way more then 1 person, so they are massively skewed numbers. If you count up all the people that other people know, you would end up with orders of magnitude more people on that list then you have actual people.

Second, many of those above deaths are not preventable, and of the ones that are there are plenty of medical advances, safety measures, and rules to help control them. IE smoking bans in public places, many rules and safety measures in cars that have reduced fatalities in accidents. Speed limits and drinking and driving laws that have also helped reduce those numbers ...

The biggest problem with this argument however is, why is it a valid reason to say that you are more likely to die some other way, so we should do nothing about reducing the chances you die this way? You are much more likely to die from cancer, then diabetes, so we should not waste money on trying to advance diabetes treatments, it isn't a big deal right?

Look at the long weekend in January. 91 reported gun deaths over the period of 3 days. This was a single weekend and would be a massacre in any other developed nation in the world. I know Canada has a much smaller population but according to the reporting bureau there were 161 gun related murders in Canada for the entire 2012 year and that was a marked increase over the previous couple years.

All the stats I can find show that roughly 11,680 people die in gun homicides each year in the US.
1.61/350000 Canada
11.68/350000 US

10 times more likely to die by gun death then your northern neighbour. How can anyone think that is not a problem? Yes, more people die from cancer, but that does not mean that nothing should be done about the rampant gun violence in the States (when compared to other civilized countries).
 
 
+1 # Vale 2013-02-14 16:39
It still makes sense that you are X times more likely to know someone who has committed suicide than know someone who has been murdered, but if I were to phrase it like that it wouldn't flow with the bullet points. Valid critique, but it is a phrasing issue.

"many of those above deaths are not preventable"
Yes. And your implication is that all gun deaths are preventable? The murder rate is down 39% over the last two decades even though the population has grown 22%. So those numbers have been reduced as well.

"so we should do nothing about reducing the chances you die this way?" Quite the opposite in fact. Perhaps money and efforts should be focused on the other causes that would yield higher benefits instead of passing more gun control legislation that is not going to stop criminals from being criminals?

"Look at the long weekend in January. 91 reported gun deaths over the period of 3 days."
look at where those murders are concentrated and compare that to Canada. We have a specific population that is involved in gang shootings who will shoot first and ask questions later (like the inauguration girl whose group was shot at because the bangers thought it was another gang). Large inner city ghettos make up the vast majority of firearm murdering spots. Perhaps something needs to be done in these areas.

What do you propose be done to stop gun violence? Look at the group who uses guns in violence. The data is all on the page that I am sure you didn't bother to read thoroughly.
 
 
# sirbee 2013-02-15 11:51
First, I would like to say I appreciate the calm and articulate response.

Your statement about knowing someone who has committed suicide makes more sense that way, and I understand the phrasing problem.

I am implying that many gun deaths are preventable. Of course they will never go away, but I do believe that if guns were not present in many situations lives would be saved. By any chance do you have a reference for saying the murder rate has gone down? I just have not seen any data to support that there has been any marked decrease in gun homicides.

Not all people who kill are hardened criminals who would do anything no matter what the laws. If guns are not in every household, then I would predict that less people would be murdered. My only real reason to believe this is by comparing America to other developed nations. I am a Canadian citizen, and I can go out and buy a gun if I wanted to. Nobody is telling me that I am not allowed to have a gun, but the rules are more strict then they are in the States. I think that this is a contributing factor to the fact that you are about 10 times more likely to die by gun in the States then here.

I agree 100%, there is more that can be done in the poorer locations of the US to protect against gangs and gun violence, but I do believe that stricter rules in who guns are provided to is one of the things that could help with that.

This is a loaded question. There is no way to ever stop gun violence. As long as people are alive, we will find ways to kill each other. That does not mean that we need to make it easy for them. While there are plenty of things that can be done to help reduce gun violence, I believe many of them are simple. Here are a few of my ideas (keep in mind that they are just ideas, would need plenty of refinement and adjustment, but they are still ideas non the less).

1 - We don't let people drive a car without having them pass a written test and an actual driving test (sometimes 2 driving tests). Why would it be so far-fetched to suggest the same for a firearm? So at some determined age when it is ok to buy a gun (I don't actually know what that age is) there should be some system similar to those who want to drive a car. Mandatory education, and a field test to make sure that you are competent to use said firearm.

2 - I am a supporter of the universal background check. I understand the argument that 'criminals won't submit to them', but then you have a black market that can be dealt with separately. If you are a civilian who wants to buy a gun, why would you object to a background check to make sure that you aren't a felon, or mentally unfit to have a firearm?

3 - Ban or control private sales. It makes no sense to me that a person could go out, buy a gun, and then sell it to someone who cannot pass a background check. That just seems idiotic?

One last thing I would like to add is that I don't appreciate your assumption I did not read it. I did read it, and that is what made me comment, not just what you wrote. I am open to hear what both sides of this argument have to say, just as long as both sides are willing to provide some evidence.
 
 
# Vale 2013-02-15 15:28
"By any chance do you have a reference for saying the murder rate has gone down?"
"One last thing I would like to add is that I don't appreciate your assumption I did not read it. I did read it, and that is what made me comment, not just what you wrote."
Are you suuuuuuure you read it? :) In the second set of bullet points at the bottom, they are linked to FBI references.

"My only real reason to believe this is by comparing America to other developed nations."
Yes, but I think this has more to do with cultural factors than access to guns. Mexico has strict gun laws, but one of the highest murder rates by firearm. I suppose that if you have a gun in your house and you are going to shoot your wife then yes, a gun makes that easier. But if you really that determined to kill this person, a knife or hammer could do the job pretty effectively with a minimal amount of extra effort. In the UK where guns are effectively banned, the knife has taken its place. In the US in 2005, "477,040 persons were victims of a crime committed with a firearm" versus the UK's 130,000 knife crimes. I couldn't find the number of knife crimes committed in the USA. But if UK knife crimes were scaled up to match the population of the US, it would be equivalent of 662,786 knife crimes per year. Does USA knife crime make up the difference? Clearly, a gun is an effective killing tool and I know that is your point, but it is also more effective at being used for what it is intended for: home protection and defense against government tyranny. Imagine having to get in a knife fight with a burglar. No thanks.

dailymail.co.uk/.../...

www.nij.gov/.../welcome.htm

Also, in the article I also point out that 48% of all murders are committed by blacks and I think this has a lot to do with culture and ghettos in this country which is something that Canada doesn't have. According to wiki, the black population is under 1% for most cities and tops out at 4% for Ontario. In Philadelphia, Detroit, Camden, Compton for example, there is a 50% black population and high rates of murder. This scales to other cities. One may interpret that as some sort of racial statement, it's simply looking at correlation. Only fools think that skin color is just color.

en.wikipedia.org/.../...

A link to Chicago's murder stats being 80% black and mostly related to gang violence.
huffingtonpost.com/.../...

But mainly my point about all of this is that I don't think that it is fair or constitutional to take away gun rights from everybody when a few people misuse them each year. Of the total deaths in the US, murder by firearm is essentially rounding error.

"Why would it be so far-fetched to suggest the same for a firearm?"
Probably because driving a car is not in the Bill of Rights. I'm not against having some kind of competence requirement to be a gun owner but I do not like the idea of there being some kind of registry that the government could use to later take away guns like the UK did back in the 1990s. Or what about Chicago's tactics? They make it so burdensome to own a gun with all the licensing requirements, essentially banning guns for anyone not willing to jump through the hoops. And how much did it do for them anyway? They still have one of the highest murder rates in the nation. That is my hesitation to interfering with the requirement of some kind of test. You could argue that the background check does the same thing, but they 'swear they don't keep records,' and you don't have to update them whenever you move, or sell one. But look at the two Chicago gang bangers who killed the girl from Obama's inauguration. They weren't even legally allowed to own guns, and they still acquired them and killed someone with them. Were they stolen from a legal owner to begin with?

"I am a supporter of the universal background check"
This already exists. I'm not an opponent to it. The fewer guns in bad people's hands the better it is for the rest of us legal gun owners having to deal with the gun control wackos.

"Ban or control private sales. It makes no sense to me that a person could go out, buy a gun, and then sell it to someone who cannot pass a background check."
Well it is already illegal to make a straw purchase. But how could you ban private sales? You'd have to have every firearm registered and keep records of who owns what. That wouldn't fly. And that would be akin to banning the private sale of cars.
 
 
# John 2013-08-02 12:09
10 times more likely to die by gun death then your northern neighbour.

So now lets decimate your initial comment about stats by Sal by noting the US is 10 TIMES larger in population than Canada.
 
 
+1 # Frov 2013-09-16 13:55
Quoting sirbee:

All the stats I can find show that roughly 11,680 people die in gun homicides each year in the US.


This is a lie. Give me your source. The author quotes 2011 UCR stats, the 2012 stats are similar. Source your claim, or you are nothing more than a liar.
 

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