Not long ago, news groups claimed that gun deaths have reached the highest levels in 40 years. However, the headlines don’t really tell the entire story. So, it is quite refreshing that a Chicago Tribune columnist dug a little deeper into the Centers for Disease Control’s numbers on the issue.
The first issue the columnist looked at was the Everytown for Gun Safety’s release that claimed guns killed about 1,100 more people than vehicle accidents. This makes it look like guns are more dangerous than cars. The truth, however, is quite different. The number pushed by many groups includes suicides. In fact, the majority of the gun deaths in the U.S., about 60 percent, are suicides, not homicides. Suicides have increased over the last few years while homicides have decreased. Even non-firearm suicides increased.
“The rate of suicide in general increased from 2016 to 2017, and the increase was actually greater for the non-firearm suicide rate than for the firearm suicide rate, suggesting that something that affects suicide but is unrelated to firearms is responsible for the recent suicide increase,” said Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck.
Combining suicide and homicide numbers doesn’t tell the true numbers. People committing suicide harm only themselves. People taking their own lives is tragic, but doesn’t constitute gun violence. Even worse, this kind of reporting trivializes the tragedy of gun violence. Additionally, it skews the numbers. Most murder victims are black, but whites have a much higher suicide rate. Many anti-gunners claim suicide rates would drop if guns weren’t accessible, but numbers from other countries show this to be wrong.
The Numbers From the Chicago Tribune Columnist
While looking at the suicide/homicide rates, the Chicago Tribune columnist brought up a couple of countries with very strict gun laws that still have suicide issues.
Japan has some of the strongest gun laws in the world. It also has one of the lowest murder rates in the world. However, Japan’s suicide rate is higher than the U.S. Additionally, almost none of the suicides in Japan are committed with firearms. Australia also has strict gun laws. After adopting the National Firearms Agreement deaths by guns — both suicide and homicide — decreased. However, both were already declining before passage of the law, but so were non-firearm homicides and suicides. In fact, Kleck concluded in a study that the new regulations “did not reduce either suicide or homicide rates below what, based on pre-1996 trends, they would have been in the absence of the NFA.”
Of course, one of the most amazing factors of all this is that even if suicides are included, car accidents still took out more Americans. Firearm deaths numbered 39,773 in total in 2017. However, the National Safety Council claims that vehicle deaths topped 40,000 that same year.
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