And here you were all panicky about mere Ebola…

If only we weren’t all so innumerate, we’d be able to respond appropriately to genuine threats to our lives. You’d never get into a car drunk, and even when sober, you’d do your best to drive cautiously, because car accidents are a major cause of death in the US. Oh, but wait…could it be there’s something even more dangerous than hurtling down the road at 60 miles per hour in a metal box? Why, yes there is.

According to data gathered by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), deaths caused by cars in America are in long-term decline. Improved technology, tougher laws and less driving by young people have all led to safer streets and highways. Deaths by guns, though—the great majority suicides, accidents or domestic violence—have been trending slightly upwards. This year, if the trend continues, they will overtake deaths on the roads.

The Centre for American Progress first spotted last February that the lines would intersect. Now, on its reading, new data to the end of 2012 support the view that guns will surpass cars this year as the leading killer of under 25s. Bloomberg Government has gone further. Its compilation of the CDC data in December concluded that guns would be deadlier for all age groups.

So driving deaths are going down because of improved safety and more regulations and less automobile use? I wonder if that has any lessons to tell us about how to reduce gun deaths.

Nah. Mo’ guns, fewer restrictions, and let’s make sure lots of ignorant red-necked doofuses have ’em!


  1. brucegee1962 says

    And what’s the number one factor that greatly increases your chances of being killed by a gun?

    That’s right, it’s owning a gun!

  2. fulcrumx says

    If Texas legislators (or Republicans in Washington) get wind of this, they’ll think it is time to double speed limits and lower the age at which one should start driving.

  3. Christopher says

    Around 60% of those deaths are suicides. Since our suicide rate isn’t much different from comparable countries, if you could magically snap your fingers and make all guns disappear, the number of deaths by suicide wouldn’t suddenly change. People would just start hanging themselves, jumping out of a window, or stepping in front of a truck instead of blowing their brains out. If you want to dramatically decrease gun deaths, you should be putting your efforts behind suicide prevention instead of trying to ban firearms. Unless you don’t actually care about the deaths and just want to score cheap political points…

  4. Jerry says

    To Christopher in re comment 5:
    Guns help depressed people commit suicide faster and more efficiently. That’s not a good thing, it’s just that guns are doing what they are designed to do- kill quickly and easily. The problem is that there is no time for reflection and no second chance. The other methods you mention take a bit more effort and time, are less efficient, more likely to fail, and more likely to allow people to survive and get treated not only for the acute effects of the suicide method, but also for the depression or other cause of the suicide attempt.

    To all:
    (sarcasm on) Isn’t it nice how the GOP wrote and passed a law making it illegal for the CDC to spend money on tracking deaths by guns and blocking researching ways to reduce gun death? Protecting the second clause of the Second Amendment over and above the benefits to society must be quite rewarding… to gun manufacturers and their lobbying agency the NRA. (sarcasm off)

  5. neuzelaar says

    @christopher: +1
    Indeed the statistics are totally misleading without separating out suicide.
    The case could be made that fewer guns results in fewer successful suicide attempts, because guns are more effective killing machines.

  6. says

    @5 “Cheap political point.”

    I think the cost of the “guns at any cost” political point is far too expensive.

    Also, you could help the suicidal AND do some basic gun control AT THE SAME TIME.

    Turns out that society, being comprised of individuals, and not just one monolithic being, can accomplish multiple things at the same time.

  7. Jerry says

    @neuzelaar: -1
    Your second sentence contradicts your first. The statistics on suicide by gun are in fact a result of having more guns in our society per capita. Separating it out is, well, lying with statistics. Blaming the victim is not a good way to win your argument.

    In addition to deliberate death bu gun, we also have a huge number of accidental maimings and deaths by guns. We cannot analyze those stats very well, however, because the GOP and the NRA/gun makers don’t want us to do so.

  8. mykroft says

    It’s amazing how the Republicans dismiss evolution as a lie, yet believe so strongly in social Darwinism. Guns enable smart people (in their view) to survive and the “bad” people to be killed. De-funding social support programs motivates people to work or die. Keeping gays from marrying will prevent a genetic dead end (in their view) from becoming more common in society.

    Fear of death, be it manifested in religion or gun ownership, seems to be their primary motivation and focus. Everything is an existential threat, to themselves or to their privilege.

  9. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    Well, when they did the gun buy back in Australia the firearm suicide rate dropped by 80%. With no significant change in other death rates.

    So yes, I’d say it does work to reduce suicide rates.

    For reasons that others have given, which is mostly that a lot of suicides are very impulse driven, make it difficult enough to do while the impulse is there and it passes before the person manages to find a method. Make it nice and easy (like having a gun right there) and the suicidal impulse succeeds.

  10. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Yeah. There’s a lot of evidence that impulsive attempts are both more preventable by controlling access to means AND more lethal when not prevented. Which means that if we take away the impulsive means, there will be fewer attempts (it doesn’t merely redirect people to another method) AND for those attempts that are redirected, the method may very well be less lethal.

    Christopher has it very wrong. neuzelaar, OTOH, seems to have it deeply confused.

  11. savant says

    @13 Ariaflame and others who have said similar,

    Lurker here, de-lurking specifically to say thank you. Speaking as someone who was both deeply depressed and suicidal some short time ago, and is now mostly through the depression but still has the lingering suicidal impulse – thank you for making the distinction. The suicidal impulse isn’t a rational thing! It’s not a decision of “welp, it’s tuesday, time to go kill myself now,” it’s an impulse! Make it harder to go through with the act and rates of incidence will decrease.

    Let’s replace handguns with Nerf guns. That sounds like it would make the world a lot more fun.

  12. robro says

    Mandatory drunk driving!

    Why yes, and open carry your preferred bottle in the car seat beside you so it’s handy in case of an emergency and need to run down someone with the gaul to cross the street your driving on. And while we’re at, perhaps we should reinterpret the 2nd to mean that we have an inalienable right to do really stupid stuff.

  13. says

    Ah, guns and gun violence, seems some people never learn. George Zimmerman is back in the news.

    George Zimmerman, acquitted by a Florida jury in the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, was arrested by Lake Mary police in Seminole County Florida on Friday evening on charges of domestic violence with a weapon and aggravated assault […]


  14. robro says

    …evidence that impulsive attempts are both more preventable by controlling access to means AND more lethal when not prevented.

    Given that people committing suicide with a gun decide to kill other people…friends, family, random strangers, police…while they’re at it with some regularity, then perhaps we would be saving other lives as well.

  15. Holms says

    Australia reduced gun prevalence through buyouts and tighter restrictions. Australia’s suicide rate has decreased since then. The reduction in suicides via gun were not offset by a corresponding rise in suicides via other means.

    You are wrong.

  16. robro says

    Lynna, that’s “again.” There were two domestic violence incidents in 2013 in Lake Mary, once threatening his girl friend and her father with a gun. He was also reportedly involved in a road rage incident last year.

  17. says

    Christopher #5

    If you want to dramatically decrease gun deaths, you should be putting your efforts behind suicide prevention instead of trying to ban firearms.

    Why is it one or the other? Couldn’t you do both?

    Moreover, please clarify what you mean by “ban firearms”. Most people aren’t arguing for a blanket ban, but simply for sensible restrictions and regulations. For example, in many states, private individuals can sell guns without any sort of check, control or registration at all. Seems to me that this is downright insane; making any attempt to keep guns out of the hands of criminals impossible.

  18. azhael says

    It’s almost as if Christopher had gone with what he “theoretically” imagined would be the case in the absence of any understanding, instead of you know, observable cases in reality, just to score a point against PZ….hmmmmm….

  19. Monsanto says

    So driving deaths are going down because of improved safety and more regulations and less automobile use? I wonder if that has any lessons to tell us about how to reduce gun deaths.

    Why, now that you ask, we need to make safer guns — maybe require that they not kill the first few times you shoot yourself. We could pass a law requiring that you have to wait three days after you decide to commit suicide. It works for abortion. We also need to limit the number of rounds per year you can fire in target practice.

    Why should we waste our time with suicide prevention programs?

    That idea about mo’ guns for rednecks is absolutely brilliant. After enough of them kill themselves off, gun suicide will become self-limiting.

    Really, is there some problem with suicide prevention programs?

  20. Cyranothe2nd, there's no such thing as a moderate ally says

    Beatrice @ 7, thanks for that link! I really enjoyed reading it.

  21. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    Unfortunately I can’t remember who to credit, but someone linked that article in one of the recent conversations about gun deaths.

  22. unclefrogy says

    fire arms are dangerous there is no denying they are made that way. If there were some ways to minimize irresponsible people from using and possessing them might be be a good idea.
    I wonder about those statistics comparing traffic deaths and gun deaths.
    How has the ratio of deaths due to traffic accidents to number of traffic accidents changed over time. How has the improved safety standards in automobile effected this ratio?
    How has improved trauma care effected the death rate?
    Has there been any comparable successful move to improve fire arm safety? (not much)
    Does the argument against increased fire arm regulation an argument in effect to maintain a dangerous environment with regards to fire arms?
    uncle frogy

  23. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Really, is there some problem with suicide prevention programs?

    There are suicide hot lines all over the place, with trained people at the other end. The problem is that they only talk to those who want to be talked out of it.
    Those who just see action, and have a gun handy, can do their action quickly without thinking about it. Other, harder ways, either don’t do the job as effectively, or take long enough in prep time to make them think enough to call the hot-lines.
    So it does take a two-pronged approach.

  24. Monsanto says

    #28 Nerd of Redhead

    Agreed. It’s easy to say, but how do we attack the second prong? All attempts in the recent past have been met with poor results.

  25. Amphiox says

    Those most likely to attempt suicide are also those most likely to suffer from disorganized thinking. In other words, the more elaborate the steps needed to commit the act, the less likely it will be that they succeed. Having failed, the majority, if they get the appropriate care they need, do not try again, at least no for a while.

    Anything that makes it harder to SUCCEED in a suicide attempt will reduce the rate of suicide death. When someone tries to jump off a bridge, some get lost and fail to find the bridge (disorganized thinking), some get seen by a passerby and stopped, some actually survive the jump and get saved with medical treatment. And authorities worried about the suicides can deter thousands in one shot with simple and cheap modifications to the bridge’s design.

    In short, to use the religious metaphor, the guardian angels get multiple points of opportunity to intervene.

    How many chances for intervention do you think the guardian angels get for the guy who chooses to blow his own brains out with a gun in his own bedroom, because getting a gun was so easy for him?

  26. Amphiox says

    The increased chance of being killed by your own gun handily outweighs the minuscule increased chance that having the gun will one day save you from some violent situation.

  27. howardhershey says

    I feel sorry for American police, having to face the most heavily armed civilian society in the world. No wonder that reaching for your waist during any encounter with the police leads to ‘death by cop’ so often. It is true that some people do have a legitimate fear of gun violence. The people with the greatest legitimate fear of being killed by criminals are other criminals, so one can understand why criminals might need and want guns.

  28. says

    It is also quite striking that while US crime rates are typically within the same ballpark as other western nations (albeit with an incarceration rate seven times higher), the US murder rate is around five times higher.

    Efficiency isn’t a problem where guns are concerned, it seems.

  29. freemage says

    Also in the “Christopher @5 is dead wrong” file:

    The Israeli military used to allow soldiers to take their guns home with them. Then they restricted gun take-homes over the weekends, but not during the week.

    Suicides during the weekends dropped by 40%. Suicide attempts during the week went unchanged. So what happened, basically, is that people who would’ve committed an impulse suicide Saturday night were, by Monday, past the worst of it and back in functional shape. If Chris’ post were remotely connected to reality, then either we would’ve seen a compensatory use of other methods during the weekend (and thus, no change in the actual rates), or a surge in Monday-evening rates (when the soldiers have access to a gun).

    This was the study that cracked my own tendency to support gun rights, by the way.