Narratives Told and Ignored

Item 2 Marking the National Rifle Association’s 2015 Freedom Festival in Nashville

 

In 2013, 17 states and the District of Columbia, gun-related deaths exceeded traffic-related deaths:

  1. Alaska: 144 gun deaths, 66 motor vehicle deaths
  2. Arizona: 941 gun deaths, 863 motor vehicle deaths
  3. Colorado: 619 gun deaths, 514 motor vehicle deaths
  4. District of Columbia: 71 gun deaths, 30 motor vehicle deaths
  5. Indiana: 857 gun deaths, 840 motor vehicle deaths
  6. Louisiana: 886 gun deaths, 767 motor vehicle deaths
  7. Maryland: 578 gun deaths, 531 motor vehicle deaths
  8. Michigan: 1,190 gun deaths, 1,063 motor vehicle deaths
  9. Missouri: 880 gun deaths, 781 motor vehicle deaths
  10. Nevada: 395 gun deaths, 281 motor vehicle deaths
  11. Ohio: 1,289 gun deaths, 1,144 motor vehicle deaths
  12. Oregon: 462 gun deaths, 363 motor vehicle deaths
  13. Pennsylvania: 1,451 gun deaths, 1,340 motor vehicle deaths
  14. Tennessee: 1,030 gun deaths, 1,027 motor vehicle deaths
  15. Utah: 339 gun deaths, 234 motor vehicle deaths
  16. Virginia: 864 gun deaths, 780 motor vehicle deaths
  17. Washington: 632 gun deaths, 540 motor vehicle deaths
  18. Wyoming: 102 gun deaths, 92 motor vehicle deaths

Interestingly, in all of those states, the majority of the traffic deaths resulted from single- vehicle accidents:

  1. Alaska: 65%
  2. Arizona: 59%
  3. Colorado: 57%
  4. District of Columbia: 65%
  5. Indiana: 53%
  6. Louisiana: 56%
  7. Maryland: 57%
  8. Michigan: 54%
  9. Missouri: 59%
  10. Nevada: 54%
  11. Ohio: 55%
  12. Oregon: 59%
  13. Pennsylvania: 54%
  14. Tennessee: 55%
  15. Utah:61%
  16. Virginia: 61%
  17. Washington: 58%
  18. Wyoming: 57%

Likewise, in all but three of those 18 states, more than half of the gun-related deaths have been suicides. Indeed, in five of the 18, more than three-quarters of the gun-related deaths have been suicides.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, in Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, gun suicides by themselves exceeded traffic fatalities. (As a baseline, in 2010, there were 19,392 gun-related suicides in the U.S. or approximately 64% of all gun-related deaths.) Here are the state-by-state percentages:

  1. Alaska: 74%
  2. Arizona: 67%
  3. Colorado: 76%
  4. District of Columbia: 49%
  5. Indiana: 64%
  6. Louisiana: 45%
  7. Maryland: 41%
  8. Michigan: 57%
  9. Missouri: 56%
  10. Nevada: 73%
  11. Ohio: 63%
  12. Oregon: 82%
  13. Pennsylvania: 58%
  14. Tennessee: 63%
  15. Utah: 88%
  16. Virginia: 66%
  17. Washington: 76%
  18. Wyoming: 90%

So, if one is very determined to find some “good” news in all of these grim statistics, it may be that single-vehicle accidents and suicides respectively account for about the same percentage of total traffic-related and gun-related deaths, and so the risk that someone else will kill us either with a motor vehicle or with a gun has remained relatively flat.

Moreover, it seems equivalently ironic that one of the major traffic-safety campaigns of the last few decades emphasized the importance of driving defensively, as if multi-vehicle crashes have considerably outnumbered single-vehicle crashes, rather than vice-versa, and that the emphasis in promoting hand-gun ownership has been on self-defense, as if gun homicides have considerably outnumbered gun suicides, rather than vice-versa.

 

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