Misreading the Data on Gun and Automobile Accident Fatalities


gun-controlIn the weeks since the Sandy Hook massacre, we have seen a re-engagement of the gun debate.  It is an issue area that had been largely ceded since 2000 when Al Gore, running for President, made mistaken inferences from public opinion data and failed to recognize that, while a majority of Americans may support tougher gun control, the group most likely to vote on that basis was heavily against any tougher regulations.

At the same time, I continue to be somewhat awestruck at the lack of basic statistical awareness on the part of opponents of tougher gun laws.  A good case in point is Greg Stovall in the local paper, who accuses many of “hypocrisy in the wake of shooting.”

He writes: “Last year, the equivalent of the entire population of Menlo Park was obliterated on our national roadways. That’s 32,367 people. The victims included more than 750 children under the age of 9, including unborn babies.”

He adds, “Not so long ago – 1980, in fact – the equivalent of the entire 1993 population of Davis was similarly expunged – that would be 51,093 deaths and was the high watermark of such carnage.”

“Why am I bringing this up? Perspective, in light of recent events. Yes, the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., was all that and more due to the method of the killings and the ages of the victims. Are the 27 victims of Adam Lanza’s senseless rampage any more sacred than the millions killed on our roadways? The death of an innocent victim is still a death. And whether these deaths occur in large numbers or small should be irrelevant,” Mr. Stovall writes, finally getting to his point.

He adds, “But I don’t see presidents going on national television, in prime time, lecturing us that we need to make fundamental changes in our behavior. Or other politicians jumping on their soapbox making similar pronouncements. There is no national hue and cry for the complete elimination of motor vehicles, the implements of this bloodbath, nor for alcohol or impairing drugs.”

“No, we just seem to accept it,” he writes and speculates: “Perhaps it is because these deaths don’t occur in large enough doses and for the most part happen ‘somewhere else.’ One or two killed here, a few there. Oh, maybe when a school bus or other such vehicle is involved and there are multiple child deaths do we take notice, shake our heads, exclaim ‘Such a tragedy’ and then move on.”

“However, there seems to be no small measure of hypocrisy in the way in which our elected representatives have chosen to deal with Newtown’s tragedy,” Mr. Stovall argues. “Predictably, if a gun is involved, the meme is that we must have more gun control laws and eliminate so-called assault weapons. Sorry, but that genie left the bottle and is not going back in.

The problem is that Greg Stovall is completely wrong when he argues, “we just seem to accept it.”  He misreads the data and our response to that data.

There is a good amount of question as to whether vehicular fatalities should be compared to gun deaths.  Part of the problem with the comparison is that gun deaths are intentional misuse of a weapon, whereas a car accident is by its nature an accident, an error, a mistake, even negligence.

The car accident data does not suggest that the solution to gun violence is to do nothing, for it is not accurate that we just seem to accept the dangers.

Indeed, we began tracking such data in 1921.  At that time there were 24.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle motor traffic (vmt) and since then the number of fatalities has declined uniformly, until in 2011 it was 1.10 per 100 million vmt.

Fatalities per 100,000 people peaked in the 1930s and reached a secondary peak in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It has been steadily declining since.

Mr. Stovall references the fact that in the late 1970s the number of vehicle deaths was about 50,000 or 22 per 100,000.  In 2011, the number dropped to 32,367 or 10.4 per 100,000.

What has changed?  In 1961, Wisconsin became the first state to require mandatory seatbelts.  By 1984, every state in the nation made such requirements.

But it’s not just seatbelts.  Airbags have helped greatly to decrease injury and fatality, as well.  While airbags themselves caused a small number of deaths, by the latter part of the first decade in the 21st century, industry estimates 3.3 million air bag deployments have occurred with an estimation of about 6,377 with numerous other injuries prevented.

Finally, there have been great improvements in engineering vehicles to make the occupants more safe.  Researchers have learned how to create emerging absorbing features, crumple zones, and to move the shock away from the passenger compartment.

The result has been a remarkable success with decreases, not only in fatalities per vmt, but huge decreases in deaths per 100,000 people, even as the number of vehicles has increased.

Mr. Stovall points out, “Of last year’s total fatalities, more than 10,000 people died as a result of drunken or impaired driving. Many of these drivers are still driving among us today, ready to kill again. More than 3,000 people were killed as a result of distracted drivers (e.g., texting). And from what I’ve seen on our roadways, this insane practice continues unabated.”

But Mr. Stovall implies that we have not attempted to change these things.  In the last thirty years, we have seen the penalties grow for drunk driving to point where some drunk drivers have faced second degree murder charges for the accidents they cause.  We have lowered the drinking limit, we have increased the ability of the state to revoke licenses and technology has emerged that can prevent a drunk driver from being able to start the vehicle.

Likewise, with regard to distracted driving, we have implemented laws in this state to fine those who drive while talking on a cell phone by holding the phone in their hand, and texting while driving.

It is remarkable, perhaps, to note that fatalities have continued to decline, despite the rise of smartphones and other devices that lead to increases in distracted driving.

In short, Mr. Stovall’s rant is misplaced.  We have not accepted vehicular fatalities.

And, of course, Mr. Stovall fails to note that to even legally operate a vehicle, one must obtain a license.  Repeated tickets or accidents can lead to the revocation of one’s legal ability to drive.

If anything, I would argue that the model put forth by the automobile industry, in which literally billions have been pumped into regulation and safety, is the start of the solution for the gun industry.

I have no problem with the family who wants to arm themselves in their home.  I have no problem, though I would never do it myself, with those who use their weapons for hunting and marksmanship.

But there are common sense reforms – licensing, restriction on types of weapons, restrictions on ammunition, the ability to restrict who can own a gun – that would make us a lot safer in a society with guns.  And all of those things we have already in done in the automobile industry, despite the fact that Mr. Stovall seems to think we have just sort of accepted auto fatalities.

That is far from the case and we have greatly reduced fatalities through safety features, regulations and laws.  We can do the same for guns.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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24 thoughts on “Misreading the Data on Gun and Automobile Accident Fatalities”

  1. medwoman


    Thanks for presenting this distortion in thinking about gun safety vs automobile safety with such clarity.
    We have a long history of precedent in this country for protecting the public from identified hazards to public health and well being.
    We have instituted many safety based regulations on automobile manufacture, ownersip, driving privilege. and conditions of use as you noted.
    Likewise there is tight regulation on the airline industry, medical practice, pharmaceuticals, suppliers of public water, utilities , food growers, packagers, distributors and restaurants all due to recognized public safety concerns.So my question is, why not consider using the demonsrated model of sensible regulation that has worked in other areas to bear on designing sensible gun regulation ?

  2. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > while a majority of Americans may support
    > tougher gun control…

    I have no doubt that the majority of David’s friends (and the majority of the people in Davis) support tougher gun control I don’t think that the “majority of Americans” support it (most of America is very different from San Francisco and Davis)…

    Then medwoman

    > Thanks for presenting this distortion in thinking
    > about gun safety vs automobile safety with such
    > clarity.

    David and medwoman seem to forget that guns (unlike cars) are made to kill people and animals and if you make them “safe” they can’t kill any more…

  3. Nate

    The car/gun deaths comparison tactic has always bothered me – it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison, at least in how the two things are used and how that reflects the death toll.

    If – like guns – cars spent most of their time locked away in storage (i.e., not being used), were used almost exclusively in emergencies, or at managed facilities, or in the wilderness by sportsmen, or by trained and certified professionals, the number of car deaths would plummet.

    Or, if – like cars – tens of millions of people were operating (firing) their guns around the clock, in nearly every public place and thoroughfare in the country, gun deaths would likely skyrocket.

  4. Frankly

    Gun Control is a tyranny of the majority.

    It is an attack of the murderous dense against the safe and friendly rest.

    The thing is… it does not and will not solve the problems used as justification.

    It is irrational. It is emotionally-reactionary. It is not pragmatic.

  5. Don Shor

    Jeff, how do you see these suggestions — “licensing, restriction on types of weapons, restrictions on ammunition, the ability to restrict who can own a gun” — as irrational or non-pragmatic? On the other long thread on this topic you had outlined some areas of agreement about management of guns. I am very ambivalent about gun control legislation, and frankly don’t care about guns much one way or another, but I do see some possible legislation that could reduce the ability of unbalanced individuals to kill large numbers of people quickly.

  6. Frankly

    Don – Good questions and challenge. Use the word “ban” and I fall off the wagon of cooperation. That word is being used a great deal in the media and in Democrat politics. Dianne Feinstein is on a mission to ban all automatic guns for example.

    I am not ambivalent about gun rights. I think they are absolute. However, the government has a right to raise the bar for licensing and background checks and transportation and location limitations. I support all of that. I also support increased sentencing to a near zero-tolerance level for gun crime, and Stop-And-Frisk protocols for law enforcement. I would prefer we risk offending a small number of innocent people that the cops suspect, than causing material harm to millions of law-abiding people because young male thugs like to shoot each other, and we don’t want to spend the money and effort keeping crazy people from getting their hands on guns.

    Lastly, I support a tax increase of some type with ALL the money directed at mental health facilities and care so that we get these dangerous people off the street. Along with that, all gun purchases should require a background check cross-checked against a database of those diagnosed having certain mental health issues that preclude them from owning guns, or from guns being allowed in the house where they live… and we have a medical protocol that provides some path to resolution for those conditions that are temporary. For example, manic depression.

    Bottom line for me is that the word “ban” should not be applied to any demand for gun control beyond what is already banned.

  7. Don Shor

    Here’s the summary of her bill from her web site: [url]http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve/?File_id=10993387-5d4d-4680-a872-ac8ca4359119[/url]
    My guess is that banning certain specific weapons will just cause manufacturers to make minor modifications. But overall I have no idea what the impact of her bill would be.
    Except for stop-and-frisk, I agree with your proposals. As for that one, I simply don’t know if it works or if it is possible to implement it in an even-handed manner. I think that would probably best be up to local jurisdictions.
    I really hope the focus is on mental health policies and the specifics of how guns are obtained. Your suggestions on that are perfect.

  8. Mr Obvious

    Don, all the things you’ve requested have already been done in California. If you would like those things to be done in other states that is fine. Any further ban or restrictions in California will not help, look at Chicago.

  9. Frankly

    [b]Frisks save lives

    New York Can’t Go Back[/b]
    [quote]When people ask me what it is that I most take pride in from my time as governor, they are often surprised at the answer. It wasn’t New Yorkers’ strength in the wake of 9/11, or the million acres of open space that we preserved, or even lower taxes: It was the radical transformation of the criminal-justice landscape in New York.

    In 1995, when I came into office, violent crime was at an epidemic level statewide. New York was the nation’s sixth most violent state, and with Mayor Rudy Giuliani just a year into his first term, New York City was still deemed ungovernable and unsafe.

    Officers frisking a group of people after a June 28 shooting on E. 160th Street in The Bronx.

    The causes were junk justice, soft criminal-justice policies, weak penalties and most importantly a mindset that stood common sense on its head.

    The common orthodoxy at the time was to empathize with the criminals, believing that the only way to reduce crime was by addressing its root causes — unemployment, drug use, broken families.

    I believed then, as I believe now, that the root causes of crime, especially violent crime, are criminals, and they belong behind bars.

    As the debate rages on over the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics, it saddens me to see those same old patterns of behavior coming from both the bench and from policy makers in Albany.

    Judges releasing criminals caught with illegal weapons; Albany policymakers loosening parole standards and reducing criminal penalties. These trends threaten to turn back the clock to a time when people feared to leave their homes and criminals ruled the streets.

    Policies matter. Eliminating parole for violent offenders and establishing mandatory minimum sentences for illegal gun possession made the city and state safer. Appointing judges with common sense made the streets safer. Stop-and-frisk isn’t everything, but it’s an essential tool for America’s best police force.

    People have come to take an ever-lowering crime rate for granted — a fact of life, like the sunrise. But ever-lower crime doesn’t just happen; it’s the result of affirmative decisions and leadership by Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly that built on the framework that Mayor Giuliani and I left behind.

    When I left office, New York was America’s seventh-safest state and the safest large state. Today, New York City is the country’s safest big city, and this year it’s still on track to have a record low number of murders.

    The city’s come too far over the past two decades to turn its back on strategies that have helped save thousands of lives. Stop-and-frisk works, and it should stay in place.

    George E. Pataki was New York’s governor, 1995-2005.[/quote]

  10. jimt

    My views are aligned with those of Jeff Boone in his first entry in thread above; except maybe for stop-and-frisk. What constitutes probable cause for stop-and-frisk? I think we want to be careful about not giving police too much power with this–the average citizen shouldn’t have to wonder whether the next cop they see is going to grab them and lean them up against a wall and start frisking them; not without some kind of good probable cause.

  11. Rifkin

    DG: [i]”Part of the problem with the comparison is that [b]gun deaths are intentional misuse of a weapon[/b], whereas a car accident is by its nature an accident, an error, a mistake, even negligence.”[/i]

    Sorry to pick nits, David, but your statement is, while mostly true, not entirely true.

    In 2009–the last year [b]the CDC has complete statistics ([url]http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_03.pdf[/url])[/b]–there were 31,347 firearm deaths in the United States. 554 of them (1.76%) were accidental. Here is a breakdown: [quote]Firearm………… 31,347
    Undetermined ……….232
    Legalintervention/war..333[/quote] It’s possible, also, that there is some crossover from the suicide and homicide categories to accidents. For example, if a person with a gun intends to threaten someone, but not kill him or even shoot at him, but things go badly and he accidentally fires the gun and kills the other, that is a homicide and a criminal act. But from the killer’s perspective, it was also an accident.

    Likewise, you could have a depressed person who kills himself with a gunshot. That is a suicide. Yet maybe in some cases that person was not ready to die. He was in a sense crying out for help, and he was playing around with the notion when the gun fired and his fate was sealed. That is one reason why it is such a bad idea to have a firearm in the house of someone who has depression and why gun accesss, in and of itself, elevates the suicide rate, because guns are such an effective tool for killing a human being, including oneself.

    Also, according to the CDC numbers, not quite all motor vehicle deaths are unintentional, as you said above. Of the 38,438 “transport” deaths, 38,255 (99.52%) were accidental. Another 104 were suicides; 60 were homicides; and 19 others were “undetermined.”

  12. Frankly

    Gun suicide is a difficult issue for me. I have lost three close family members to it. All three were handguns. The first one was my 18 year old step sister. If she had not been able to access that gun, she probably would not have killed herself that day. She had tried before though with pills. Like many suicide victims, she seemed she would just keep trying to work up to the final act.

    My 45 year old cop brother In-law wouldn’t have been saved by gun laws, because he used a service revolver. We didn’t figure it out until after he was gone, but he too had tried before with a forced motorcyce crash.

    Two years later his 47 year old identical twin brother… a man that had been dealing with depression problems for most his life, who had tried to kill himself with pills as a teenager, took his own life with a handgun that had been owned by his brother.

    I think if we could magically ban privately-owned handguns, we would see the suicide rate drop… but not by as much as we would hope. There are just too many other ways people can end their own life if they decide to. We would make a larger dent in our suicide rate with medical breakthroughs for diagnosing the symptoms and treating the causes.

  13. Rifkin

    JB: [i]”My 45 year old cop brother In-law wouldn’t have been saved by gun laws, because he used a service revolver.”[/i]

    Police officers have an extremely high rate of suicide ([url]http://www.tearsofacop.com/police/articles/lewis.html[/url]) compared with others, especially when controlling for age, race, gender, income, etc.

    A cousin of mine who is a psychologist (retired from the U. of Michigan) told me that the primary reason (though not the only reason) cops have such high suicide rates is because they have such easy access to guns.

    I don’t recall the country–I could email my cousin and ask if you’d like me to–but he told me that one country where they had a great number of their police officers killing themselves put in an effective program to lower the rate, which included restricting their gun access. (Due to our uncontrolled gun sales, that would be impossible here.) The first thing they did was to improve mental health treatment, an effort to figure out in advance which cops were vulnerable. Once they identified those cops and put them in counseling and gave them meds to lessen their depression, [i]they took away their guns when they were off duty[/i]. (I believe in the U.S. most cops own their sidearms. But in many other countries, the weapons are the property of the police departments they work for.) And when those cops were on duty, they were always paired up with another cop who could keep an eye on them.

    It’s probably been 20 years since my cousin told me that story. But I think he said that the suicide rate by cops dropped in half–to a level lower than a control group.

  14. Rifkin

    JB: [i]”I think if we could magically ban privately-owned handguns, we would see the suicide rate drop… but not by as much as we would hope.”[/i]

    Having a gun in the home roughly doubles the chance of a person successfully committing suicide. This summary of a 2007 study (Miller, et al) was published by Harvard: [quote] The authors compared the 40 million people who live in the states with the lowest firearm prevalence (HI, MA, RI, NH, CT, NY) to about the same number living in the states with the highest firearm prevalence (WY, SD, AK, WV, MT, AR, MS, IO, ND, AL, KY, WI, LA, TN, UT). Overall suicides were [b]almost twice as high in the high-gun states[/b], even though non-firearm suicides were about equal.[/quote] There have been many other academic studies on this issue, and all of them come in with about that same number: gun access doubles the chances for suicide.

    [i]”We would make a larger dent in our suicide rate with medical breakthroughs for diagnosing the symptoms and treating the causes.”[/i]

    The main cause of suicide is depression*. It is usually treatable with counseling and meds.

    However, people with depression–especially those with bipolar disorder–are not always depressed, and when they are depressed, the degree varies. When depressed people are at a low ebb, the risk to attempt suicide becomes very high. The question then is how they can kill themselves. If they have a gun, the answer is right in front of them and it almost always works. But if they “only” have prescription pills, they might just puke them up and it fails. Or if they just have a knife, they might not be able to do it or they might survive the attempt. (A student at UC Davis at a frat house 12 years ago killed himself** with a knife, stabbing himself in the chest over and over again.)
    *In a few cultures, there are other causes which are just as important. Japan, for example, has a much higher rate of suicide than most countries, and it does not have higher rates of depression (and it happens to have low amounts of gun ownership). My understanding is that “shame” and “honor” are uniquely important aspects of Japanese culture which, when breached, lead to suicides. Those are also reasons why Japanese people work so hard and are so successful.

    **His family believes he was murdered. The Yolo County Coroner and the California Department of Justice investigated and ruled it was suicide ([url]http://dateline.ucdavis.edu/dl_detail.lasso?id=7151[/url]).

  15. Frankly

    [i]Overall suicides were almost twice as high in the high-gun states, even though non-firearm suicides were about equal[/i]

    That still does not prove anything unless controlled for everything else. It certainly makes rational sense that gun access would increase the rate of suicide, but how much? And, does this risk that people might kill themselves justify banning handguns?

    [quote]A new report from researchers with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy finds the majority of the previously reported increase in suicide in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010 is attributable to an increase in hanging/suffocation, which increased from 19 percent of all suicides in 2000 to 26 percent of all suicides in 2010. The largest increase in hanging/suffocation occurred among those aged 45-59 years (104 percent increase). The results are published in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine[/quote]

    Suicide is a tough one for me. I am still pissed at my two brothers and probably will be for the rest of my life. The both left a wife and two kids. Their problems were miniscule compared to what others go through and fight to live another day.

    My thinking is that we are more likely to reduce suicide by teaching coping skills, raising emotional intelligence and life-perspective and having awareness and treatment dealing with signs of depression… and stopping with the sympathy for those that do it. My great grandmother was an only child after her father and all of her seven siblings died of yellow fever. She would spit on the grave of her only nephew (her oldest sister’s son that was raised by his father after his wife died) who fought in WWI and returned to commit suicide. Back then it was a bigger deal if someone committed suicide and it brought shame on the family. I have to wonder if my great grandmother spitting on her nephew’s grave might have helped any of my 22 cousins have a different perspective about suicide than they might have otherwise had if my great grandmother had fallen to her knees and wept.

    Another perspective on suicide is that it is a natural biological risk condition… either a statistical deviation from normal behavior, or something explainable from a micro or macro biological systems perspective.

    One fascinating story is the dude that cut off his own arm after falling and getting stuck while hiking in the Utah desert so that he would live another day… and then later tried to commit suicide. Maybe he is okay now, but reading about him, he seems wired differently and might have some biological/physiologocal issue that medical science will figure out how to diagnose and treat as a chronic condition.

  16. Rifkin

    [i]”That still does not prove anything unless controlled for everything else. It certainly makes rational sense that gun access would increase the rate of suicide, but how much?”[/i]

    See this ([url]http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929/T5.expansion.html[/url]).

  17. Rifkin

    Some conclusions from the American Journal of Epidemiology ([url]http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/160/10/929.full[/url]):

    “The findings of this study add to the body of research showing an association between guns in the home and risk of a violent death. [b]Those persons with guns in the home were at significantly greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a suicide in the home relative to other causes of death.[/b] This finding was particularly the case for males, who in general have higher rates of completed suicide than females do. The findings showing an increased risk of homicide in homes with guns are also consistent with previous research (14, 20, 23, 24), although, when compared with suicide, are not as strong. Studies that have examined the risk of either violent victimization or perpetration at the individual level show relative risks between 1.4 and 2.7 (14, 20, 23, 24). Our findings are also in this range.

    “Our findings also suggest that the presence of a gun in the home increases the chance that a homicide or suicide in the home will be committed with a firearm rather than by using other means. [b]Victims of suicide living in homes with guns were more than [u]30 times[/u] more likely to have died from a firearm-related suicide than from one committed with a different method.[/b] Guns are highly lethal, require little preparation, and may be chosen over less lethal methods to commit suicide, particularly when the suicide is impulsive. Suicidal persons may also be more likely to acquire a gun to commit suicide and, given the lethality of the weapon, are more likely to complete suicide, although the evidence on this point is mixed (20–22).

    “In our study, the risk of dying from a firearm-related homicide or suicide was greater in homes with guns, but this risk did not vary by specific firearm-related characteristics.

    “The body of research to date, including the findings of this study, shows a strong association between guns in the home and risk of suicide.”

  18. Frankly

    Need to ban all drugs and the doctors that prescribe them…

    [quote]Drugs now kill more people than motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. — a monumental shift that reflects gains in road safety amid a troubling rise in prescription drug abuse.

    Drug overdoses and brain damage linked to long-term drug abuse killed an estimated 37,485 people in 2009, the latest year for which preliminary data are available, surpassing the toll of traffic accidents by 1,201. And the number is likely to rise as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prepares to release its official statistics in December.

  19. Rifkin

    No one in the mainstream in the gun control debate in the United States says we need to ban all drugs. Banning all guns is not on the table.

    There are two primary questions on the table:

    1. How do we severely reduce access to guns to people who are mentally ill or mentally imbalanced?

    Answer: We have to require all psychiatrists and psychologists who are treating people for serious mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia) to report the names of their patients to the FBI so those patients are on the cannot-buy-guns registry.

    2. How do we regulate gun sales so that a background check actually finds those people who should not have access to guns cannot easily purchase them?

    Answer: We need to require a background check be done on all gun sales, including private sales and sales at gun shows and flea markets, etc. The sad fact is that 40% of all gun sales now require no background check. That is why it is so easy for ex-cons to buy guns. Thanks NRA!

    And there is a secondary question about drawing a line for which guns are allowable: Up to now, on a federal level, the line is drawn at fully automatic weapons. In most cases, it is illegal for civilians to buy or possess them. That line was drawn in 1934 and it has never been changed.

    It was drawn because gangsters were buying and using machine guns to conduct mass murders. So the law was put in and effectively said: You can have guns for protection or hunting, but not for mass killings.

    3. Where we draw the line when it comes to the killing potential of legal firearms.

    Answer: At the level of semi-automatic firearms. These were designed for mass killings. They are not needed for hunting or home protection. They should be banned entirely; and any equipment which allows the rapid feeding of ammo into a gun should be banned.

    When it comes to ammunition, I would ban magazines which hold more than 10 rounds (which is California law); I would ban ammo which is designed to explode (in order to kill a human being more effectively); and I would ban all after-market equipment which converts guns into automatics or semi-automatics.

    If we did all of that, we would probably save the lives of 1,000 Americans a year (out of 1,800) who are killed by mental patients with guns; and we would probably save the lives of thousands more Americans each year who are killed by people who would be caught on the FBI list; and we would save the lives of thousands more who would not be gunned down in gang violence with semi-automatic gunfire.

  20. Frankly

    My point about drug overdoses was related to the suicide argument… that far more people are killed by drugs than by guns. And I would guess that most of these deaths are from illegal use of drugs: either over-use of prescription drugs or use of illegal drugs. My point was rhetorical… that we already have laws banning certain drugs and illegal use of prescription drugs. People still kill themselves. You could try to make the point that death by drugs in incidental, but the fact is that most overdoses of illegal drugs happen with the user knowing the risks, and many prescription drug overdoses are also done with the user knowing the risks. And frankly, the result is the same regardless of the nuance in the debate of difference: people die at their own hand. And if your goal is truly that noble cause to reduce death, and you are not just using gun suicide as a smoke screen to hide your agenda for banning guns, then you would be more apt to opine against drug-related deaths than you would gun deaths.

    [i]If we did all of that, we would probably save the lives of 1,000 Americans a year (out of 1,800) who are killed by mental patients with guns[/i]

    #1 and #2 only would save the lives and I support them. However, #3 is unwise. First, semi-automatic guns are used for hunting. Second, banning them would only result in law-abiding gun owners being put at a disadvantage defending themselves from bad guys who buy semi-automatic weapons on the black markets. This is especially a problem if you are also talking about banning semi-automatic hand guns (not used for hunting, but they are used for personal protection/defense). If you are going to ban semi-automatic guns, then you need to add deaths resulting from those unable to effectively defend themselves, and the fact that bad guys knowing this would be more embolden to commit crimes they would otherwise think twice about. There is a principle in law enforcement that says “Criminals are not generally stupid, but they are generally lazy.” Knowing the risk that their victims are less well armed, criminals will be more emboldened to commit crimes against them. That will increase death by gun.

    The mass killings from guns have all been crazy people. Let’s deal with that problem and stop chasing the false solution of banning guns that have legitimate uses in society.

    Then if you want to see gun violence decrease even more, deal with it this way…

    In areas where gun violence exceeds some national threshold, implement zero-tolerance sentencing (use a gun in committing a felony, go to prison for the rest of your life), and Stop-And-Frisk protocols for law enforcement. Once gun violence drops to a low benchmark threshold, then go back to the normal sentencing rules and eliminate Stop-And-Frisk.

    You and I and everyone else know that this would work. It would significantly reduce gun violence. It would save thousands of lives. It would save more lives than would banning guns in this country.

    But it would hurt feelings.

    So, those that cannot get over hurt feelings should look at themselves in the mirror for failing to support the type of solutions that would actually save lives.

    1. skj1191


      1) “…that we already have laws banning certain drugs…”
      Drug use and other forms of escapism by the human species is not equivalent to weaponizing the entire population or even large communities. Prohibition didn’t work; Why? Because people will find a way to escape their struggles, no matter what, in any form they can. Doing so does not typically involve carrying out acts of violenece against other life-forms. Basic human needs always triumph over oppression. Necessities of life can not be starved out existance as the will to survive is the driving force of the universe. Maliciousness and the thirst for violence, however, are not necessities to life, and therefore, behaivior engaged in pursuit of fulfilling those desires can be deterred and as such, punishment is effective in minimizing the occurance of those negative behaviors. Dismissing the need to address one issue because one attempt to solve a completely different and unrelatable issue failed is just a cop-out. One of the red herring excuses lobbed by those who are either in denial of reality or are profitting off of the current system in place, using fear-mongering in an effort to perpetuate and maintain that system, no matter the cost to anyone else (selfish, to say the least).

      2) “…and illegal use of prescription drugs.”

      What is that? It is not ‘illegal’ to possess prescription drugs, or at least, there is not the threat of incarceration for having drugs not prescribed to you (they will be confiscated, but no actual punishment is enforced). Access to them and the liklihood of just anyone being able to obtain them, however, is heavily monitored and highly restricted in that, a person must be evaluated by a medical professional and determined to be medically in need of them on a case by case basis. Even when granted access, unless their medical need is due to a chronic (lifelong) condition, access is only temporarily granted. The classification of what qualifies as a “medical professional” can be called into question and is certainly debatable but whatever the defining factors of that are, we do have punishment against those who use exploit the power to grant or deny access to those substances carelessly or with ill intent in the form of revocation of their license to practice medicine, at minimum, and imprisonment in extreme cases. Those legal deterrents do keep the public at large much safer than would be otherwise. So this argument favors on the side of stricter legal parameters being the way to go, possibly along with more severe ramifications being implemented around mere possession of the potentially harmful object in question, whether it be toxic substance, poison, or gun and keeping people who would use such things for nefarious reasons (regardless of whether they are a megalomaniacal, psychopathic killer or a heartless, profit-seeking, pharma-pushing quack) being barred from being placed in a position where they could do so.

      3) “…but the fact is that most overdoses of illegal drugs happen with the user knowing the risks.”

      A risk that is needlessly imposed on them. That ‘risk’ is directly attributable to the fact that those drugs are, in fact, illegal. Because they are illegal they are completely unregulated, in terms of their manufacture, which results in fluctuating levels of potency. Fatalities due to overdose of illegal drugs are virtually never attempts of suicide, instead they are almost exclusively due to a miscalculation on the part of the user as to what size dosage to take. Very difficult to self-medicate effectively when there is no standardization for administering that drug and where the effectiveness of a given quantity of it is unreliable, not to mention untracable and so holds no kind of accountability to naturally safeguard it. The user, every user of said drug, is forced to have to guess at what dosage is appropriate (and therefore safe) for themselves and every new batch they obtain may be different from the last. So, yes, those are risks that the user is aware of but they need not be present and are certainly NOT inherent to the use of illegal drugs (after all, ANYTHING in excess – Death by drinking excessive amounts of clean healthy water – can be fatal). These risks, whether known by the victim beforehand or not, are 100% manufactured and have only been impregnated into the act of using “illegal” drugs in recent years by design. Point being,  it is incorrenct to assume that fatalities caused by the overdosing of illegal drugs is in any way equatable to either thrill-seeking behavior or suicidal behavior as it is neither relative to nor indicative of either.

      4) “…semi-automatic guns are used for hunting.”
      Actually, no, they are used for trophy-collecting, not ‘hunting’. The word ‘hunting’ implies that there is present the  motivation of survival. That the taking of a given life is done in the pursuit of self-sustenance, without malice, and without hate. Semi-automatics are dual-mode devices, meaning they can be set to either single-fire mode or automatic/keep-firing-non-stop-as-long-as-the-trigger-is-being-squeezed mode. The latter being undesirable by hunters who are hunting for the purpose of feeding themselves or their family – Semi-automatics in auto mode (and anything more severe than the minimum force needed to down a target – which is a single shot to the head or heart) entirely defeat the purpose for which a hunter is hunting… to render meat from the carcass in an effort to sustain their own life. If a hunter likes the use automatic fire when hunting then they are most definately not looking to salvage the meat off of their kills as a means of survival but rather, interested only in adorning their walls with bigger, better trophies than anyone else; gaining only (and seeking only) bragging rights with each kill. This is evidenced in the fact that multi-round automatic-fire tends to mutilate a carcass to such a degree that no sizable amount meat may be rendered from the body. It may be debatable, but I would argue that trophy-killing is undesirable and negative behavior which ought not be encouraged in the modern world, just as killing people in fits of emotionally charged lashing out and mentally unstable individuals performing random acts of violence are undesirable and negative behavior. So that argument also falls flat.

      There was more you said to which I had a counter-point to make, however, I’m tired of writing any more at the moment so I’ll just leave it at that.

    2. skj1191

      “Criminals are not generally stupid, but they are generally lazy.”

      Right… therefore making something that much more difficult to obtain across the board, will induce much more work being required in order for anyone, legitimately or not, to obtain it. Again, you’re arguing against the case you’re trying make.

  21. Frankly

    I encourage anyone reading or participating in this discussion to read the Davis Enterprise letter to the editor from Robert Northup, entitled: “Firearms and mental illness: The problem hits home”

    Wow… just wow.

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