Continued reporting on gun-related deaths in 2017—a record high in the U.S. in almost 40 years, according to The Hill and other publications—keeps one thing in perspective: combining the number of suicides, homicides, accidents, legal interventions and “operations of war” creates a more dramatic, and perhaps misleading, impression about firearms in the United States.
Last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there were 39,773 firearm-related fatalities. Of those, an estimated 23,854 were suicides, The Hill noted, while an estimated 14,542 died in homicides.
The second number is curious because it is an estimate. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2017, there were 10,982 homicides involving guns. Of those, 7,302 involved handguns, 403 involved rifles, 264 were done with shotguns and 3,283 did not identify the type of firearm used. But between the CDC and FBI, there’s a disparity of more than 3,500 reported slayings.
One possible explanation would be that the FBI doesn’t get data on all murders. Another might be that the CDC estimate is on the high side.
According to the DrugAbuse.gov website, “More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids—a 2-fold increase in a decade.” The source for this figure was the CDC.
CNBC reported early in the year that, according to a National Safety Council estimate, there were 40,100 motor vehicle related deaths.
Meanwhile, CNBC also reported—citing a mid-2016 report from Johns Hopkins—that “more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the U.S.”
What does all of this mean? First, people die from all sorts of things, but the one certainty is that everyone, including everyone reading this report, will one day die.
But combining all the homicides, suicides, legal intervention and accidental firearms-related fatalities and calling them all “victims of gun violence” creates a misleading, and perhaps deliberately so, impression that all of those people are crime victims, thus requiring increasingly intrusive and restrictive gun policies championed by people who know little, if anything, about firearms and prefer to demonize them and people who own them.
There are already lots of restrictions on the exercise of Second Amendment rights; more than on the exercise of any other constitutionally-delineated right. There are background checks and, in some jurisdictions, waiting periods. Most mass shooters passed background checks, and many—such as California spree killer Elliot Rodger, who murdered three of his victims with a knife, and killed the other three with legally-purchased handguns—went through the waiting periods.
Others, such as Sandy Hook murderer Adam Lanza, bypassed the paperwork altogether. Lanza did so by murdering his mother and taking her guns to do the killings. Ditto Kip Kinkel, who murdered both of his parents before taking guns purchased by his father to Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon and opening fire more than 20 years ago.
Individuals like Kinkel, Lanza and Rodger are exceptions rather than the rule. There are an estimated 100 million gun owners in the U.S. with somewhere north of 300 million firearms. Numerically speaking, a fraction of one percent of all those guns are used in a homicide or suicide in any given year. A smaller fraction of those involve rifles of any kind, leading one to question why gun prohibitionists seek to ban so-called “semiautomatic assault weapons.”
Honest gun owners are tired of being treated like an enemy simply for exercising a fundamental right that is specifically protected by the constitution. They are tired of being penalized for the crimes of a relative few people; crimes they didn’t commit nor condone.