Thursday, April 9, 2015

Violence Policy Center Report on Gun v. Car Deaths: Facts into Falsehood

The Violence Policy Center (VPC), a think-tank dedicated to banning guns and restricting the right to keep and bear arms, debuted its annual report that we need gun control because we have car control. Their argument is based in the rather vague comparison of firearms deaths to traffic collision deaths—the idea being that if guns were heavily regulated like cars, then we could reduce gun deaths. The privilege to drive a car is not comparable to the right to keep and bear arms. On top of their flawed argument, their statistic driven argument is highly flawed.

In 2013, there were 395 deaths by firearm (by any method) and 281 motor vehicle deaths in Nevada. These statistics are misleading and the VPC’s report is blatantly aimed at furthering their anti-gun agenda. Cherry-picking statistics may work for headlines, but not for the truth.

The CDC WISQARS database tells the true tale.* Of the firearm deaths, there were 292 suicides by firearm in Nevada in 2013. 88 deaths were by homicide in that same period. That leaves 15 deaths unaccounted for—we shall regard these as accidental deaths in the absence of further data as justifiable homicide is still homicide. Of course, all traffic deaths are 307.

292 firearm deaths were a choice by an individual to end their own life; a choice that was likely to be made whether or not a firearm was available. More on firearm and suicide deaths below.

281 traffic deaths were caused by negligence, inattention, drunk or reckless driving, etc. Virtually all traffic deaths are caused by a violation of traffic law, no matter how slight. Violation of an infraction leading to death.

88 people committed a willful act (justifiable homicide or murder, no data is available on either) to end another's life, undeterred by law.

The problem with this method of analysis is while motor vehicle accidents are caused almost always by accident or negligence while firearms deaths are most deliberate. Homicide (murder or justifiable) and suicide are not accidents. 15 deaths by firearm in Nevada in 2013 is not an epidemic.

If the idea is that safety regulations, like safety equipment on cars and licensing requirements can reduce or prevent firearm deaths, we must consider accidents only. Deliberate choices to cause death, such as suicide and homicide, cannot be prevented by a safety mechanism, a trigger lock, or gun licensing requirements. Accidents only

15 accidental firearm deaths and 281 accidental motor vehicle deaths. If the VPC is taken at face value to introduce safety measures and regulations to cut down on gun deaths, we see that the epidemic of accidents lies with cars and not guns. No safety regulation nor gun control measure can reduce gun deaths without infringing upon our rights.

The true headline is this: In 2013, there were 15 unintentional firearm deaths in Nevada, while there were 307 accidental traffic deaths.

Suicides and Guns

The sheer number of firearm suicides bears further examination. Suicides by firearm are the most common manner of death in America. One reason is that guns are the most lethal form of suicide, by 85%. This report by the Harvard School of Public Health goes into great detail on firearm suicides.  

The fact is, gun ownership and higher suicide rates accompany each other. Exactly why is unknown. 
"'But when we compared people in gun-owning households to people not in gun-owning households, there was no difference in terms of rates of mental illness or in terms of the proportion saying that they had seriously considered suicide,' [...] 'Actually, among gun owners, a smaller proportion say that they had attempted suicide. So it’s not that gun owners are more suicidal. It’s that they’re more likely to die in the event that they become suicidal, because they are using a gun.'" 
Alternate sources show that in the UK, where firearms are virtually unheard of (compared to the US) that the leading method of suicide is hanging. Suicide is a mental health problem, not a gun problem. Gun owners know that a firearm is an inanimate object, incapable of firing on its own. It can be used for good or it can be used for evil. The choice remains a personal one.

The Harvard article is worth a read in whole. While not from a staunch Second Amendment viewpoint, the subject is sensitive to the concerns of gun owners. The facts are harsh when it comes to gun and death, but that should be no surprise to anyone, yet it is reassuring to know that medical professionals studying the issue of gun suicides are not painting with the same broad brush the anti-gunners are. However, going into depth on gun suicides is digression from the purpose here.

Suicides cannot be prevented through regulation, however, by implication, the VPC suggests that firearms can be regulated away, thus reducing deaths. The report includes “A Tale of Two Products,” one heavily regulated and subject to licensing (cars) and the other not (guns).

Cars have been made continually safer since their invention today, when one is least likely than any other time in history to die in a car accident. The VPC calls firearms “the last unregulated consumer product in America.” Instead of calling for increased awareness of suicide causes and prevention, as the Harvard School of Public Health wisely suggested, or methods to deter and punish murderers, the VPC has called for restrictions on the Second Amendment. For more on the VPC’s warped view of reducing death, read this post.

You can’t legislate, regulate, or put safety devices on people. People are the central factor in deliberate gun deaths—homicide and suicide. VPC’s solution, though they can’t come out and say it, is to reduce or eliminate access to guns. They will spin facts into falsehood for their position that guns should be banned.

*National Data
Homicide:            11,675
Suicide:                21,175
Unintentional:      505
Undetermined:     281
Total:                   33,636

Probable accidents: 786

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