Common Risks in America: Cars and Guns

I have long said that driving a car is the most dangerous thing regularly do in our lives. Turns out deaths due to automobiles are declining, while deaths due to firearms are on the rise:

Guns and cars have long been among the leading causes of non-medical deaths in the U.S. By 2015, firearm fatalities will probably exceed traffic fatalities for the first time, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

While motor-vehicle deaths dropped 22 percent from 2005 to 2010, gun fatalities are rising again after a low point in 2000, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shooting deaths in 2015 will probably rise to almost 33,000, and those related to autos will decline to about 32,000, based on the 10-year average trend.

There’s also this story.

Posted on January 16, 2015 at 6:19 AM158 Comments


SoWhatDidYouExpect January 16, 2015 6:28 AM

Like other situations, where we have a credit score, which was followed by an insurance score (homes, then automobiles), and reports of a medical (or health) score, we should soon be expecting the rise of a “gun” score and requirements for “gun” insurance (liability, accident & otherwise), though gun training is already required is many places (akin to driver training).

George January 16, 2015 6:49 AM

It sounds like Bruce is an anti-gunner, but being in the northeast, that is not surprising. The CDC is another liberal anti-gun government shrill.

The big flaw in this article is that it is implying that the gun deaths are equal to car accidents. When in fact, most of the gun deaths are acts of self defense. Murders are a part of it also, but many instruments can be used to murder someone. One of the liberal arguments against concealed carry laws was that guns would be going off accidentally everywhere, but it doesn’t happen.

I am disappointed in Bruce posting this misleading article. It has nothing to do with computer/data security. It does have to do with trying to influence people to take all guns away from all people. The safety issue of trigger fingerprint recognition, etc., is mote. No gun owner in their right mind wants to take a chance of an electronic devise malfunctioning, placing their life in danger.

This kind of article will never hold water here in Texas.

David January 16, 2015 6:58 AM

Who links to the Economist with a straight face? Very disappointed you would parrot such a propagandist rag.

JT January 16, 2015 6:59 AM

“most of the gun deaths are acts of self defense.”

Not true. Suicides, accidents and killing by criminals number much more than killing for self defense.

S. January 16, 2015 7:28 AM

I don’t understand this U.S.-only discussion. Ordinary people in other parts of the world don’t need guns. And they don’t scream for a right to carry a gun.

Ronwaldo January 16, 2015 7:45 AM

The primary purpose of a firearm is to induce death in the most efficient, expedient manner possible. Guns are not primarily a sporting accessory, a hobby; guns are not “traditions” or “heritage” or anything else the pro-gun lobby romanticizes them to be. They are instruments of death.

As a tool used to kill living things, they should be regulated as such. It’s not outrageous to ask why a person needs a firearm. Can you articulate why you need a gun? Surely, if it’s a legitimate need, you can easily attest to the reasoning. It is time to get reasonable controls in place.

In the US, we must divorce ourselves from the insanity of gun-culture. If the govn’t decides to invoke some law that you personally don’t agree with, no cache of guns will save you. If “the deal goes down” and society collapses, no stockpile of firearms will ensure your survival. The fantasy of so many concealed carry proponents of “saving the day” with their “rights” is a poor excuse for the proliferation of instruments that require the skill and judgment that most simply do not possess, especially in stress situations.

Brian January 16, 2015 7:59 AM

@George: You are projecting your own paranoid fears onto this. The post makes no mention or implication of any kind of gun control. It’s just a statement of fact that gun deaths are rising without suggesting why or what to do about it. It’s an important trend to take note of whether you support gun rights or not.

Furthermore, this is not strictly a computer/data security blog, it’s about security in general. If the two most common causes of non-medical deaths don’t deserve security attention, what does?

Jarrod Frates January 16, 2015 7:59 AM


I’ll preface this by saying I’m a gun owner and a gun rights supporter. But your information is woefully inaccurate.

First, the CDC does not appear to have any part in this except for collecting the data, which is part of its mission. The CDC tracks mortality and morbidity data across the country, and makes the data available for public use. Bloomberg and others have used this data to come to the listed conclusions. The CDC has not undertaken a gun violence study since 1996, largely because it fears Congress cutting its budget for doing so.

Second, the number of justifiable homicides each year by civilians is a few hundred. Firearms account for the overwhelming majority of all homicides at around 70%, followed by knives at about 12%.

It’s difficult to make coherent arguments from data that is simply wrong. If we’re to protect the rights that we cherish, we have to do it on the basis of accurate information, or the foundation of the argument crumbles and we risk losing them.

s January 16, 2015 8:01 AM

Let me correct that Ronwaldo:

“The primary purpose of a firearm is to…”
shoot a projectile.
“Guns are…”
“accesories” for sport, hunting, self-defense, collecting, hobby, as is building guns and ammunition. There is rich tradition surrounding guns in many countries.
“As a tool…”
for protecting your life, providing food and even entertainment they should be treated as a basic tool everyone needs.
“It’s…” “…outrageous to ask why a person needs a firearm”
especially given all those valid reasons.
“In the US, we must divorce ourselves from the insanity of…”
people who don’t trust themselves to handle a basic object and want to be spoon-fed whole life giving up all freedom for false sense of security. Your life is in your hands, wake up.

I’m from EU by the way…

Gerard van Vooren January 16, 2015 8:01 AM

Guns are for pussies.

Everyone should have, as government issued personal defense kit:

  • 1x riot gun with 50 rounds
  • 1x M16 with 500 rounds, scope, night vision, and 50x 40mm grenades
  • 3x LAW
  • 1x NBC kit incl. gas mask
  • 1x Kevlar helmet and bullet proof vest
  • 1x bullet proof car model XXL 4WD
  • 1x bullet proof house
  • 1x bullet proof garden
  • 1x bullet proof office
  • 1x bullet proof mobile phone with auto tapping and tracking

For the children the defense kit should grow of course.

PaulT January 16, 2015 8:02 AM

Suicides account for roughly 60% of gun deaths in that statistic, and crime rates (including homicide) have been steadily declining for decades.

KimberTLE January 16, 2015 8:05 AM

If Constitutional Rights were based on statistics – and DC v Heller said they won’t be – and since Bruce brought it up, there’s an even bigger battle brewing! Per the CDC:
► 1.5 million people visit the ER, every year.
► 55,000 people die, every year. (More than gun and auto deaths combined, including suicides).
► Over $65 billion (“B”) spent in medical expenses, every year.

Yes, hitting your head and suffering a TBI is a horrible thing. And the #1 cause: falling down!

Imagine… if a law were passed requiring every person to wear a helmet, for the cost of less than just one monthly Obamacare premium per person, we could save millions of people and billions in dollars, every year!

Alex January 16, 2015 8:10 AM

This is very misleading, as it ignores how much of these deaths are caused by self-defence, or suicide or gang crime. Not to mention there are many huge cities there with very strict gun control which makes law-fearing citizens in bad neighbourhoods to be much more vulnerable to very dangerous alpha thugs (that also have illegal guns) from their area.

Just end the war on drugs and welfare and people will learn to be responsible.

wiredog January 16, 2015 8:15 AM

Wow,. The number of lying gun nuts posting to this blog post is probably going to equal the number of lying gamergaters posting to that blog post!

Krash January 16, 2015 8:16 AM

Odd, isn’t it? If you announce to the social media sites that you’re going to commit suicide in the near future, and then get a prescription from a doctor, and take an overdose of barbiturates — you’re touted a brave person, a hero, someone to be admired. (Reference: Brittany Maynard).

But if you decide to take your own life with a gun, you’re a coward and a villain. You’re a statistic for the gun control crowd.

I’m surprised that Bruce – the champion of security and privacy, would stoop this low. You disappoint me.

Krash January 16, 2015 8:21 AM

Dear wiredog,

As a person holding Ohio’s permit to carry a concealed weapon:
◇ I have passed a mandated federal background check – 3 times.
◇ I have never been convicted of a felony.
◇ I have never been convicted of a crime of violence.
◇ I have never been convicted of domestic violence.
◇ I have never been convicted of possessing/using illegal drugs.
◇ I am not under indictment.
◇ I am not a fugitive from justice.
◇ I have never been adjudicated as being mentally incompetent.
◇ I have never been adjudicated as being mentally ill.
◇ I am not under adjudication for mental incompetence.
◇ I am not under adjudication for mental illness.
◇ I have passed all courses required by the state of Ohio.
◇ I have been vetted according to all of your criteria.

QUESTION: Why do you continue to call me a “gun nut?”

vas pup January 16, 2015 8:24 AM

@S. • January 16, 2015 7:28 AM
‘I don’t understand this U.S.-only discussion. Ordinary people in other parts of the world don’t need guns. And they don’t scream for a right to carry a gun’.
Ask French folks in Paris in particular the same question after recent events.
When guns are banned, only criminals have them (and gov as well, but gov can’t provide cop 24/7 to provide security of each and every citizen. That is why taking into consideration current status quo: God help/protect people who help/protect themselves). In Switzerland many guns including military level of firepower are at homes of reservist with all ammunition. Have you ever heard about armed bank hold up in that country? Their main concern is suicide going up due to access to deadly weapon, not crime. Conclusion: we should understood that is most cases people with guns using them as a tool kill other people, not guns as themselves by the same token as not cars create accidents, by drivers. By the same logic you could ban matches to prevent arson.

Chris January 16, 2015 8:25 AM

All I am taking from the article summary is that in 2015 it is now time to focus on banning cars rather than firearms.

Dave January 16, 2015 8:27 AM

It is quite amazing how information from a study becomes an immediate and guttural defense of not an attack on the data/message/messenger.

Guns kill

Nobody is “coming to take your gun”

Cars kill

Nobody is “coming to take your car”

There is a serious issue with guns. Cars have issues too, and over the years we have seen improvements in cars to make them safer and less dangerous. We have ABS, SRS, impact zones etc all that do save lives everyday.

No such move is happening in the firearm world.

David in Toronto January 16, 2015 8:34 AM

Wow the reaction.

Bruce made an observation on a statistic that surprised him (It also surprised me – shows what I think of cars). There was no position taken on gun control either way. Simple observation car deaths will shrink below gun deaths in the next year or so.

I am not making an opinion pro/con gun controls. Just observing that in the US this topic is so touchy it’s almost toxic. Someone makes an observation and is immediately pummeled by people assuming he’s against them. You folks are just way too up tight.

Disclaimer: I am a Canadian, we have gun controls. We also have problems with illegal guns as well. I have owned and used guns but currently have no permit and have no guns. I do have a bow for sport. I live in a mostly safe city. I have lived in the country where a gun would be a more necessary tool than where I live now.

S. January 16, 2015 8:38 AM

Ask French folks in Paris in particular the same question after recent events.

I understood they still ask for the same rights as before the events. They still trust in their police and don’t request to get guns and take matters in their own hands like “Judge Dredd”.
Even after the events, not everyone thinks “Who is this ugly guy in my front garden with dark eyes and a beard? I better shoot first because he could pull a gun from his pocket!!!”

PaulT January 16, 2015 8:46 AM


Part of the issue is that people try to oversimplify the problem and talk about the “firearm” world. It is not that simplistic.

If you look at gun deaths in the United States, the majority are suicide, followed by criminal uses. Defensive gun use and accidents are much lower down the list.

Further looking at criminal uses, most of those occur in the context of urban areas, usually in gang or drug related activities.

A dispassionate review of the numbers shows that addressing the poor mental health care in the US would have the biggest effect on gun deaths, followed by trying to address the cultural issues that lead to gang/drug crime. Those, however, are extremely difficult problems to solve.

The media in the country, driven by ratings, tends to focus on incidents that get the most viewers, mass shootings. These however, are such a small section of gun deaths that they are statistically insignificant. While every death is a tragedy, public attention and focus should be on the biggest impacts first.

People who are law abiding citizens who use guns will tend to become passionate when they see security theater aimed at them, instead of the root causes of most gun deaths. Background checks, for example, have little effect on criminal use of guns. Many felons can easily access a gun. Even if every gun was magically removed from circulation, directions on youtube can allow you to create simple weapons for a few dollars at a hardware store.

The security theater of background checks, does however, severely impede lawful gun owners, much like the security theater in airline travel impedes lawful travelers. Poorly written or implemented laws have succeeded in making relatively normal activities, such as going to a shooting range with a friend to let them try your rifle/pistol a felony. Loaning a shotgun to a close friend for hunting season, or a military member giving his firearms to a close friend before deploying oversees have also been made illegal.

Other examples are the typical “assault weapon” bans. The vast majority of items banned are used in a minuscule number of crimes, and the parts banned are usually done so for cosmetic, not functional reasons.

The entire issue is a great example of people who lack knowledge about a subject making laws to regulate it, often missing the reforms that are needed, and instead targeting regulations that low information voters will support because it makes them feel safer, even if they actually aren’t.

Wayne Riddle January 16, 2015 8:57 AM

To compare the two (car and gun deaths), I would like to seen it broken down like this:

Justifiable Homicides (i.e. self-defense)
Accidental deaths
Intentional homicides

Justin January 16, 2015 9:09 AM

The article was written in 2012, so now that it is 2015, do the metrics actually match the forecast?

Coyne Tibbets January 16, 2015 9:12 AM

I’ll never forget a news show I saw back in the early 90’s: There were reports on three deaths described during the segment. In the first death, the victim was shot by a spouse; in the second, stabbed half a dozen times; in the third, run over deliberately by a car. All three deaths were apparently willful, premeditated murders.

Note specifically that the shooting was not reported last, but after the last report, one of the reporters said, “Something has got to be done about all these guns.” I thought that rather shallow, or maybe even surreal, given the nature of the murders reported during the segment.

Maybe guns do cause more deaths now. Last year or the year before, they did not. Yet the focus seems to be on them: thousands of deaths a year from cars, meh; one death from a gun, OMG! In 2013, there were 4,400 deaths from workplace accidents of which 700 were due to slips and falls but, meh.

I don’t argue this as worth of guns or not worth, but merely as an example of the skewed priorities we assign to things. In other articles, we’ve talked about the public focus on terrorism, when your chance of death from terrorism is small to the point of vanishing. So why focus on it so heavily?

Are guns really the biggest concern we have?

Me January 16, 2015 9:13 AM

“firearm fatalities will probably exceed traffic fatalities for the first time”

Really? I would have thought that in 1800, firearm fatalities would have outnumbered traffic fatalities pretty heavily. 1864 even more so.

foobar January 16, 2015 9:14 AM

Isn’t Bloomberg one of the largest anti-gun advocates in America? Please consider the source first Bruce…

Bryan January 16, 2015 9:15 AM

For context are we counting how many guns are legally owned and not used to commit crimes in that timeframe? Millions in the U.S. alone.

How many deaths did guns prevent without even being fired?

Dr. I. Needtob Athe January 16, 2015 9:25 AM

You guys are focusing on what this says about guns, but I saw it as a sign that cars are getting safer. Maybe you wouldn’t have gotten quite as upset if Bruce had written “By 2015, traffic fatalities will probably drop below firearm fatalities for the first time.”

Dr. I. Needtob Athe January 16, 2015 9:31 AM

Correction: Maybe you wouldn’t have gotten quite as upset if the article Bruce quoted had said “By 2015, traffic fatalities will probably drop below firearm fatalities for the first time.”

Frank Ch. Eigler January 16, 2015 9:32 AM

“@S […] Ordinary people in other parts of the world don’t need guns. And they don’t scream for a right to carry a gun.”

… except for e.g. French Jews?

Waldo January 16, 2015 9:59 AM

I agree that this antigun liberal agenda is like cancer invading the body politic. We don’t see them trying to ban cars but rather use AI to drive you around and save the carbon tax for your breathing. The world is a dangerous place and people need the ability to
Defend themselves. The second amendment is nonnegotiable. as much as we need cars and people to live forever, we need the second amendment even more. Let’s stick to computer security and squid here, If we can.

GreenSquirrel January 16, 2015 10:01 AM

Bruce mentions firearms & deaths in the same post….. hilarity ensues in the comments along with all kinds of accusations about Bruce being pro or anti-gun based on…. erm… [random attribution generator required].

@David in Toronto pretty much hit the nail on the head

Wow the reaction.

Except it isnt surprising. Pro or Anti guns, any mention of them is pure clickbait.

Waldo January 16, 2015 10:04 AM

Firestorm Bruce. No matter who you are, never talk about taking and american’s guns without expecting to get the ammo first. Pierce Morgan. Anecdotal evidence. Back to the subject of this
blog please.

GreenSquirrel January 16, 2015 10:14 AM

All those who are asking Bruce to stick to “computer security” – where did you get the idea that this was a blog which can only talk about computer security?

Its title says “Security” with out a caveat and even if it were Computer Security, physical security is a pretty important part of that as well.

This means all bits of security are welcome as far as I can see.

If you’ve read Bruce’s post as anti-gun and feel the need to froth about liberal conspiracies or how the MAN is coming to take your gun away, you may have other issues which need addressing.

Bruce posted an article for discussion – as he does pretty much every day – with almost no position of his own around it.

There are people in the comments who make a brave stab at analysing the data and seeing what can be inferred. Which is why I come here.

However, there are also people who just see EvilLiberalConspiracyToTakeAwayMyRights and therefore everything is wrong – no matter how much congnitive dissonance is needed to keep to that position.

At a very fundamental level, there is little defensive about firearms and any security benefit they have is the deterrent effect of making things a bit riskier for the attacker. Unfortunately most of the time, the firearm is not going to be in a place where it can really deliver this.

If the level of gun ownership is really all there is that prevents significant increases in the US crime rate, then the country has massive other problems to resolve.

So, in a nutshell, if your debate about this has to include a reference to Bruce, the CDC or whoever being there to take your guns away so it must be wrong, then you might want to reconsider the logic of your position.

jdgalt January 16, 2015 10:15 AM

To really, honestly assess the hazards associated with guns, one must first divide the casualties according to the real problem.

The largest category is suicides. Then shootings between drug dealers and other career criminals, or between them and police (both of which often kill bystanders who happen to be in those neighborhoods).

Then you get down into the categories which apply to the average person who doesn’t live in a bad neighborhood: Crimes of passion. Tragedies where a child gets hold of a weapon. Careless handling when hunting or cleaning your weapon. Accidental discharge. Carelessness such that a bad guy gets hold of your weapon before you do.

And finally, don’t forget the many cases where a weapon does good, because you defend yourself by showing or using it. In most of those cases it’s never fired.

Quantify each of those and I think you’ll find that owning guns is often a good idea — but only for people who are prepared for the responsibilities, and don’t have the kind of risk factors that make the first hazards on the list relevant.

GreenSquirrel January 16, 2015 10:21 AM

@jdgalt – not a bad idea but for comparison we would need to do the same to other security risks.

So for driving we would need to break it down to:

Drunk Drivers
Stoned Drivers
Tired Drivers
Distracted Drivers – eating
Distracted Drivers – drinking
Distracted Drivers – smoking
Distracted Drivers – making cellphone calls
Untrained Drivers
Careless Drivers
Lost Drivers
Criminals trying to get away from the police
Car malfunctions

The list could go on.

PaulT January 16, 2015 10:23 AM


Thanks. I’ve found that oftentimes with this topic, emotions rule on both sides instead of actually looking at the issue and trying to understand the motivations at play.

I tried to summarize some of the components of this topic that cause these problems from the “pro-gun” side, along with the connection to security issues frequently discussed on this site.

GreenSquirrel January 16, 2015 10:31 AM

On a trollish note, I think it is also quite unfair to tourists in the USA – they dont get given guns to protect themselves, and you wont let them get on planes with guns if they are flying to the USA.

I am amazed they arent being robbed and killed in their millions.

Paula Thomas January 16, 2015 10:31 AM

@Vas Paup

  1. There have been precisely no calls to slacken French gun control.
  2. The Swiss. Yes interesting one this: You are half correct. Reservists, the last time I looked, can keep guns at home but not ammunition.

I am afraid the US is alone in having such lax gun laws (and one of the highest homicide rates in the world, along with the highest incarceration rate {1% of adults in prison at any one time). Hmmm.

PaulT January 16, 2015 10:37 AM


Thanks for supplying those links, but be careful not to compare them in isolation to the greater issues.

For example, while gun homicide alone skews the graph to show the United States as near the top of the chart, when expanded to all homicides the difference will decrease. The United States is still higher than most European countries, but greatly outdone by many others. The magnitude of the difference is also quite lower. Disaggregating the data a bit to look at individual states, you see that treating the US as a whole hides some interesting trends. Several states have homicide rates lower than most industrialized countries, with a few skewing the data higher for the entire country.

The same applies to suicide, where expanding to all suicides, and not just gun suicides shows us on par with some European countries. Suicide is an issue where people tend to use what is at hand, and with substantially higher gun ownership, you would expect to see the methods of suicide to be different. However, the greater issue of mental health and suicide across the country is more complex.

sena kavote January 16, 2015 10:47 AM

Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris had armed police guarding. Attackers had advantage of surprise and guns that were not just pistols. The staff might have benefited from ballistic shields, helmets, smoke grenades and some training, depending on their physical strength. They might have rushed the attackers on some door. This question can be studied with paintball guns in some training area.

If we assume that Charlie Hebdo staff should have some guns, they should not be pistols, but something that is more difficult to hide if stolen. Before getting any guns to offices, they would need half year of weekly training sessions about shooting and infantry tactics. Only some would handle guns while others would hold ballistic shields. Minimum number of guns would be held in offices, depending on how many certified-to-use people are there. Surplus guns would be disassembled and the parts stored in separate locations. No assembled guns there during weekends and nights.

If we talk about one on one shootings, usually a murderer has surprise and self-defense is unlikely to succeed in neutral ground(not home). Even if defensive shot hits attacker, incapacitation may not be immediate, attacker hits too and both die from each others guns.

In home, longer gun than pistol is always practical. Pistol is usually the only practical gun class for crime, since carrying a rifle to would-be crime scene would cause too much attention.

There is something that should have fragmented standards and it is guns. Would it be ok with gun owners if all new guns would have 0,2 mm larger or smaller caliber than any current standard caliber? Old standard bullets would still be produced. Over a decade, after 100 different standards, gun murders with illegal guns and illegal ammo would have some reduction because of this. Plenty of times criminals would get wrong kind of ammo or wrong kind of clips. If you are not sane enough to handle this mess of standards, you are not sane enough for guns.

GreenSquirrel January 16, 2015 10:48 AM


I dont want this to be seen as either pro or anti-“gun ownership” rather a curiosity about statistical analysis.

Disaggregating the data a bit to look at individual states, you see that treating the US as a whole hides some interesting trends. Several states have homicide rates lower than most industrialized countries, with a few skewing the data higher for the entire country.

The problem with this is that we are now comparing apples with oranges.

I am not sure having some states with lower murder rates than countries is something to be massively proud of.

Additionally, decoupling can introduce its own problems in that the signal gets lost in the noise – so the neighbourhood where I live is very, very low crime (and has had zero terrorist events, ever) but this cant be used as an argument against national crime or terrorism strategies.

Dave January 16, 2015 10:51 AM

There is no real discussion to be had about “gun control”. The constitution is clear and your either an American constitutionalist bill of rights defender or not. Guns are to America as hardness to rocks or heat to fire or cold to ice. You can’t have one without the other. Be beta be, That’s all folks.

PaulT January 16, 2015 10:51 AM


Any comparison country to country or state to country will be apples to oranges.

Country to country comparisons typically will compare countries that are orders of magnitude bigger in area or population, significantly different population densities, etc… When discussing an issue like guns, the United States is highly diverse in terms of not only the before mentioned factors, but also cultural values pertaining to their use, and large differences in laws from state to state.

GreenSquirrel January 16, 2015 10:58 AM


I completely agree that there are always more differences than can ever be shown in a simple comparison, but it is still one of the leading mechanisms by which people compare data sets.

So we talk about GDP between (say) Japan and Chile, or we talk about cellphone internet usage in (say) Nigeria vs Norway.

The reality is that they are often not a purely exclusive comparison but help people learn where other things need to be considered.

Without an artefact of this nature, no form of comparison would ever be applicable – because I suspect even at the State level, there are significant variations in trends and almost every “crime heat map” shows that the level of all forms of crime can vary with clear statistical significance within a city.

Yet, for policy and study, we still have to be able to say City A has a crime rate of X vs City B which has Y etc.

sena kavote January 16, 2015 11:02 AM

Gun standards relating to ammo, clips etc. should be even more difficult mess than our screws:

(and actually the gun screws too)

(or instead of screws we could point to our file system formats across different operating systems: fat, ufs, zfs, hfs, ntfs, jfs, reiserfs, ext2, ext3, ext4, xfs…)

GreenSquirrel January 16, 2015 11:04 AM


There is no real discussion to be had about “gun control”. The constitution is clear and your either an American constitutionalist bill of rights defender or not. Guns are to America as hardness to rocks or heat to fire or cold to ice. You can’t have one without the other. Be beta be, That’s all folks.

Pretty hard to argue with the sentiment, yet there is already significant precedent for controls around who can own guns.

For example convicted felons and the mentally ill appear to be unable to purchase them in most places.

Or should bill of rights defenders defend their rights to own firearms?

Justin January 16, 2015 11:04 AM

Good answer Dave. Any discussion about gun control is like turning a flame cold and wet and trying to convince me it’s fire. Double speak 1984 utopia anybody? Lol.

MikeA January 16, 2015 11:05 AM

@GreenSquirrel – Do travelers into the U.S. not have the same right to transport guns in their checked baggage as folks traveling within the U.S.? I seem to recall reading on this blog that one way to reduce TSA/baggage-handler theft was to check your valuables with your gun. OTOH, a friend lost some fairly valuable gear to the TSA (gear was never recovered, but the case was found in a TSA-only area) possibly because it was packed in a gun-case.

Meanwhile, I would love to see statistics on the proportion of first-time commenters to “the usual gang of idiots” broken down by topic on this blog. And where is Skeptical on this subject?

PaulT January 16, 2015 11:15 AM

@MikeA Don’t assume that first-time commenters aren’t frequent readers.

I read this blog fairly often, but haven’t commented because most of the topics were ones where others were much more knowledgable than myself. This happens to be one area in which I have some knowledge.

GreenSquirrel January 16, 2015 11:18 AM


Do travelers into the U.S. not have the same right to transport guns in their checked baggage as folks traveling within the U.S.?

Not sure – I will investigate, if nothing else, it will be interesting to see if my google searches trigger any flags.

However, travellers coming from the safer countries where firearms are prohibited, are putting themselves at risk travelling to the USA.

anonymous January 16, 2015 11:28 AM

Dave • January 16, 2015 8:27 AM

It is quite amazing how information from a study becomes an immediate and guttural defense of not an attack on the data/message/messenger.

Guns kill

Nobody is “coming to take your gun”

Cars kill

Nobody is “coming to take your car”

Abortions kill

Nobody is “coming to take your right to have an abortion”

Yet the pro-abortion crowd gets just as hysterical as the pro-gun crowd whenever the subject comes up.

sena kavote January 16, 2015 11:33 AM

“Breaking bad” had a hybrid kill involving both cars and guns: Walter White drives over adversaries, then picks up adversary’s pistol and shoots, then says to Jesse Pinkman: “run”.

How this kind of thing is counted in statistics? It may involve any combination of deadly things.

Bufford January 16, 2015 11:35 AM

Be cautious when quoting the CDC on gun issues. They’ve long been driven by whomever is in control of the current Administration; political motivations sometimes trumping science.

On the gun issue, look toward the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics for some real data before different biases get involved.

Gun crimes, like all crime in the US, continues to drop (in spite of ownership numbers increasing over the same time). It’s been dropping for the past 18 years.

A quick Google of DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics had this

The reality simply doesn’t support the script so it’s ignored.

PaulT January 16, 2015 11:39 AM

People from other countries traveling to the United States are not putting themselves in any significant risk due to firearms. Saying so is remarkably ignorant.

If they are not here to participate in gang warfare or tour those areas, their chances of being assaulted with a firearm are incredibly low.

Clive Robinson January 16, 2015 11:39 AM

@ Krash,

Your list of what you have not done, with the exception of the last couple applies also to very many people across the USA and world.

For instance it applies too just about anyone prior to “being caught” or suspected of a crime. I’m reasonably sure that if someone decided to look they could find an example of somebody with the same record as your self, “going postal”, involved with major drugs deals, terrorism, and even doing decidedly unpleasent things to children or animals.

As the insurance company puts in their disclaimers “previous results are no indicator of future performance” the same applies to all aspects of security. Which is why the old unofficial CIA moto of “In god we trust, all others we check continuously” should be all security practitioners moto.

B. Stein January 16, 2015 12:08 PM

So what they’re saying is…. we need to make cars more dangerous. Any ideas? Anyone? GoOgle?


Nick P January 16, 2015 12:15 PM

George and JT’s comments bring to light an important issue: the term “gun deaths” seems to be meaningless. A gun is a tool designed to cause death. Suicides and murders shouldn’t count against guns because it’s really the intent and action that mattered. These might have been done with any lethal instrument. Are done another way if in a gun control country. The gun is just the tool of choice for its effectiveness.

More important is the accident rate: unintentional deaths. That’s what we should worry about. The accident rate as a percentage of the number of guns or gun owners. If it’s acceptably low, then we’re all good. If not, then we have something to work really hard on.

I also have a hard time believing many stories I read would’ve happened if the young people involved were raised with guns and taught to respect them. I’d like to see the demographics to be sure but it seems to typically be middle class suburban and urban types. In more rural regions I’ve lived in, it’s not uncommon for kids to shoot their first gun (eg .22 rifle) in 6-10 yr old range. One I know got her first deer at 7 or 8 yr old. None of these kids would ever point a gun at themselves or friends: even suggesting it makes them talk to you like you’re an idiot.

The real cause of many unnecessary deaths might be that the parents didn’t teach their kids, let them see the weapon’s power first hand, and ingrain good habits in them. Trips out shooting or hunting also make good one-on-one family time, too. Instead, many of these parents hid the weapons away and treated them like any other forbidden activity. We all know what kids, from toddlers all the way to teens, think about this: “he said no but I gotta get my hands on that thing.” I’m almost certain this contributes to the accidents but would like more specifics to formulate a stronger theory.

Herman January 16, 2015 12:20 PM

So, I guess that in the UK, many more people are killed with knives and hammers than with hand guns, but does it really make any difference to the total number of murders per million people?

Mike January 16, 2015 12:23 PM

Just because I wanted to see some actual numbers and I thought I would share what I found (not that the numbers really help to solve the issues, but at least we can look at where the greatest risks are. FWIW, I think above commentors that suggest improving mental-health/economic-divide/education would likely see far more improvement in gun death, suicides in general, and our society in any number of other ways, than focusing on gun control would.)

2011 CDC numbers
Accidental discharge firearms 591
Intentional self-harm firearms 19990
Homicide firearms 11068
Undetermined intent firearms 248

The only number I could find quickly for firearms death from self-defense was from 2010, “In 2010, across the nation there were only 230 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR)”. I’d assume the 2011 number would be similar. I do find it amusing that there are apparently more deaths from accidental discharge than from self-defense.

sena kavote January 16, 2015 12:39 PM

Do we have stats about how many gun murderers were physically weaker than their victims? Or victim had a knife accessible. Or victim was part of a group that would have defended against contact attack.

Because those are the murders that would have been avoided with no gun. Either not even trying or murder aborted or failed.

Also, gun leaves less evidence or makes feel that it leaves less evidence.

Anura January 16, 2015 12:53 PM

@Nick P

These might have been done with any lethal instrument. *Are done* another way if in a gun control country.

They might be done differently, but that doesn’t mean they WILL be done differently. Guns are particularly powerful, and can have a powerful psychological effect; someone might feel a lot more confident if they have a gun than if they have a knife. Not all murders are pre-meditated, and quite a few are committed in the course of things like robberies; someone who only has access to a knife might be less likely to rob someone than if they have access to a gun.

Now, if you track the history of every gun law passed (whether pro-gun or anti-gun) in the United States and compare to the homicide rates you will find there is no statistically significant change in either direction that doesn’t also track with the overall crime rate (including non-violent crimes). This means that things like assault weapon bans, magazine limits, right to carry laws, etc. are probably not going to make you either safer or less safe.

So does this mean gun control is pointless? Not necessarily. We simple haven’t passed gun control laws that can have a major effect; the so-called “assault weapons” don’t really get used that often to commit murder. Few laws short of banning handguns outright could even have a significant effect on the US, and it would have to be done at a federal level or else criminals would just go to a different state to get their guns. Would banning handguns make a difference? I’d guess yes; it wouldn’t drop to zero right away, but it would likely cause a slow decline as guns are confiscated in arrests, and people start finding it harder to get a gun they can conceal.

Of course, banning handguns won’t happen any time soon. You brought up another point that we should be focused on reducing the number of people who would commit these crimes in the first place. I absolutely agree, and would support that before I supported a handgun ban. However, this requires we work to reduce the number of people in poverty, and unfortunately the trend is going in the opposite direction – for most of the past 15 years real minimum wage has been declining, social programs had been getting cut, real wages have been stagnant or declining, demand for labor has been declining, poverty rate has been rising – and shows no time of changing any time soon. So we are pretty much SOL on either front.

All options should be considered to reduce the homicide rate; we have chosen to do nothing.

Travis Snoozy January 16, 2015 1:05 PM

I did some research* back in 2013 (Sandy Hook) contextualizing gun deaths.

The comments people have already made about suicide are absolutely correct (~2/3 of gun deaths, the majority, are suicides). There’s also some math in there about (legal) slaying, vs (illegal) murdering (~5.6% of homicides are legal), and some breakdowns about how many gun shootings were committed by government agents (e.g., cops) vs. private citizens. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough data to draw conclusions statistically on whether or not there is a correlation between murderers and mental disorders (e.g., schizophrenia).

All that aside, to be an apples-to-apples comparison, we need to look at the likelihood of somebody dying of an accidental gunshot vs. a car accident (car accident is more likely), or look at somebody dying of gun homicide vs. vehicular homicide (being shot is more likely), and then contextualize either of those into the whole of “likelihood of dying in an accident” vs. “likelihood of being murdered.” Your overall likelihood of dying in an accident is enough to warrant a #5 placement on the CDC’s death causes list, whereas homicide doesn’t even make the list.

I have not looked at a breakdown of the CDC’s “accident” category, but I bet there’s some interesting data in them thar hills re. things for us to be more scared of on a day-to-day basis than guns. 🙂

TL;DR: we have bigger fish to fry (in terms of personal risk of death) than guns. Guns are merely a bigger (if you’ll excuse the phrase) emotional trigger.

  • I’m not sure if the ACM just requires registration, or if you have to be an active member to get access to Communications; my apologies for the wall in either case.

Zonzo January 16, 2015 1:14 PM

Not a big gun guy, but I tend to think of gun ownership and crypto the same way:

If people are permitted to use crypto, some percentage will result in “Really Bad Things” — terrorists and crime syndicates may use it to assist with crime (even killings and mass killings), and some users will forget passwords or otherwise gooof up (the famous “I accidentally let Windows initialize my Truecrypt partition) and will lose data etc.

Similarly, gun ownership also gives rise to criminal use and accidents.

There is another parallel. The government is motivated to restrict both as a means of exercising control and restricting the power of the population.. As far as I can tell, the first US gun laws were a racist affair designed to restrict the rights of blacks.

At bottom I’d rather have the percentage of “bad thing” than be unfree. Just my two cents.

d33t January 16, 2015 1:30 PM

Around here, I am at much more risk of being murdered by a cop, a negligent HMO or via second hand smoke than by random gun violence. The cops, HMO and cigarette companies get paid to murder me (as well as the US gov by taxation). There isn’t much profit in my murder for the random gun toting thug in comparison.

Anura January 16, 2015 1:43 PM

@Travis Snoozy

Your overall likelihood of dying in an accident is enough to warrant a #5 placement on the CDC’s death causes list, whereas homicide doesn’t even make the list.

Depends on what numbers you are looking at.

Homicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24 (exceeding suicides), and the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 and 34; it makes the top 5 for people between the ages of 1 and 44. So if you are concerend about young-ish people dying, you should absolutely not ignore murder (why we would even not care about reducing homicide rates even if it didn’t make the top 10 in any category is beyond me, since the US has the highest homicide rate among developed Western countries – it’s not like we can only choose one cause of death to try to reduce at a given time).

Skeptical January 16, 2015 2:13 PM

@Nick P: These might have been done with any lethal instrument. Are done another way if in a gun control country. The gun is just the tool of choice for its effectiveness.

Are you saying that if on 2013-12-31 all guns had somehow disappeared from the United States, and that none were present in that country for all of 2014, that all criminal homicides (ex suicide) caused by gunshot wounds during 2014 would simply have been committed in some other fashion?

Patriotic American January 16, 2015 3:01 PM

I am very disappointed in this post, which is not up to your usual high standards. America needs guns. Let me explain. Like all educated Americans, I am sure that you believe in evolution. Well, guns promote evolution. Without guns, how would the American gene pool expunge itself of morons like that woman who let her baby gut-shoot her, goo-goo gaa-gaa BLAM!? And all the sad loser retards who run around waving their popgun at 100 militarized cops in tanks – why won’t you let nature take its course and eradicate their crippled spermatazoans from our gene pool? Don’t you believe in Darwin?

What the eugenics movement failed to do, guns have accomplished quite effectively. Now we do not have to cruelly sterilize our mental defectives – we just let them buy guns and blow their brains out in comical mishaps, inane arguments, and well-founded depths of despair at their failure in life. In the meantime, these doomed unfortuates can lead happy, fulfilling lives in keeping with their capacities, such as shouting, “Yee-hah! Lookee how that pumkin plum exploded!”

I hope you will reconsider your ill-founded opposition to Americans’ Second Amendment right to protection from adverse mutations of the I.G.F.2 receptor gene endemic amoung cracker gun nuts.

Kevin January 16, 2015 3:03 PM

The vast majority of firearms deaths are suicides and drug-related. What percentage of automobile deaths are suicides? drug-related?

It’s also interesting to look at the death rate by age of victim, both sets of data show significant spikes in the teens through early twenties.

Anura January 16, 2015 3:21 PM


“The vast majority of firearms deaths are suicides and drug-related.”

For most homicides, the circumstances are unknown. Of the ones that are known and specified (5311 in 2013), 386 were drug-related, 138 were gangland killings, 686 were Robberies, and 2889 were “Other Arguments.” I don’t see much evidence to backup your statement.

Zaph January 16, 2015 3:38 PM


‘I don’t understand this U.S.-only discussion. Ordinary people in other parts of the world don’t need guns. And they don’t scream for a right to carry a gun.’

I do. I reckon there are plenty in Paris etc. right now too.


Bufford January 16, 2015 3:49 PM

“Guns are particularly powerful, and can have a powerful psychological effect; someone might feel a lot more confident if they have a gun than if they have a knife.”

That’s commonly known as “totemism”; imparting a mystical power over an inanimate object whereby it exerts influence over an individual to at in a way they otherwise wouldn’t.

You know… MAGIC!

Anura January 16, 2015 4:05 PM


I suspect you didn’t put much thought into that argument. Two scenarios:

1) A man approaches you, points a gun in your face and tells you to give him your money or he’ll kill you
2) A man approaches you with no visible weapon, tells you to give him your money or he’ll kill you

Do you think you would feel or react differently to the two scenarios? I’m willing to bet most people with the gun in their face would be a lot more scared and less likely to fight/run than the people with no gun in their face. For this same reason, a person holding a gun feels more powerful than a person holding a knife; the gun invokes a lot more fear, and makes the person holding the gun feel more powerful and confident.

Psychology, it’s not magic. How you feel others perceive you has a huge impact on your psychological state.

Ant January 16, 2015 4:20 PM

I think somebody needs to revisit Warren v. District of Columbia. In particular:

Believing the police might be in the house, Warren and Taliaferro called down to Douglas, thereby alerting Kent to their presence. At knife point, Kent and Morse then forced all three women to accompany them to Kent’s apartment. For the next fourteen hours the captive women were raped, robbed, beaten, forced to commit sexual acts upon one another, and made to submit to the sexual demands of Kent and Morse.

Now I have a wife & kids whom I want to protect. I’ve lived through home invasions and worse. Last home invasion, it took the police 30 minutes to show up AFTER the perpetrator was already in the house. We should be grateful they showed up at all. Worse would be the time that fellow murdered his friend, accidentally stabbed him some 87 times, and then wrecked his car just down the the street from my home. Rural area too, not like a city where there’s lots of people and houses nearby.

Overall I seem to average an “incident” about once every 10 years, though being careful, white, and living in an upper-middle class neighborhood greatly reduces the frequency.

Nevertheless, when the garage door goes up mysteriously by itself at 3am in the morning, and I don’t know if somebody’s already in the house with us, a handgun makes a big difference in personal safety. Not a longgun. It’s too easy to grab the barrel and push it aside, and they’re too hard to maneuver in close quarters. Not a knife. A stronger or better trained opponent could take it away too easily. Or just overpower me.

But a handgun is a great equalizer. I don’t have to have Arnold Schwarzenegger muscles to protect my family.

Guns, well they’re not as lethal as the anti-gun nuts, Bloomberg included, would have you think. Something like 80% of bullet wounds are non-fatal. Not that I want to get shot. But consider that if I am shot, it’s really going to piss me off. And naturally anybody I shoot is going to feel very similarly towards me.

You want to think I’m crazy, that’s your prerogative. But your wrong. I would never shoot someone without extreme cause, for reasons of self preservation to say nothing of legal liabilities. It has to be him or me, and even with shooting him I figure my odds of survival aren’t real good.

But these people who want to take away the guns… They’re creating a world where the strong can abuse the weak at will. Where the weak have no recourse or defense. Are you one of the strong? Or are you merely naive about your own vulnerability?

To the fellow who wanted to change all the calibers… Have you considered the phenomenal cost to manufacturers and vendors that would basically bankrupt the industry? Perhaps you have. How about the extreme cost to police departments and anyone else who legally needs weapons, all paid for by your tax dollars?

Perhaps more telling is the data:

Car fatalities for 2012 were 30,800.

Deaths from heart disease (#1) (2012): 599,711
Deaths from cancer (#2) (2012): 582,623
Influenza (#8) (2012): 50,636
Suicide (#10) (2012): 40,600

Where’s your bleeding heart for mental health services? For decent medical care? Why do we let companies lie on nutrition labels and report 0% transfat when they contain hydrogenated oils on the ingredients list? Why do we still let McDonald’s and Wendy’s sell burgers with more fat than you’re supposed to eat in a week?

Did you get a flue shot this year?

And perhaps most telling of all: Why are we so concerned about guns, when they don’t even make the top 10 list?

Who’s agenda is supported by this conversation? Who benefits by this distraction from our real problems?

Coconut January 16, 2015 4:58 PM

I love how certain types here are screaming bloody murder just because someone did some statistics and compiled some figures. You wanna know why people call you gun nuts? This is why.

Kevin January 16, 2015 5:01 PM

@Anura For most homicides, the circumstances are unknown. Of the ones that are known and specified (5311 in 2013), 386 were drug-related, 138 were gangland killings, 686 were Robberies, and 2889 were “Other Arguments.” I don’t see much evidence to backup your statement.

The FBI uses a very narrow definition of “drug related”: only murders occurring specifically during a narcotics felony (e.g. during the act of drug trafficking or manufacturing) are considered “drug related” per the UCR. If two guys snort a random substance, and one of becomes gets paranoid and shoots the other, this is not considered to be “drug related” under the FBI criteria.

Multiple studies show a strong correlation between illicit drug use and homicide victimization, unfortunately I cannot find public reports or studies of toxicology of firearms homicide victims (for the USA) more recent than about 1997, aside from “Exploring the Drugs-Homicide Connection“.

james January 16, 2015 5:02 PM

“I do. I reckon there are plenty in Paris etc. right now too.”

Interesting that a story providing statistics without opinion would generate so many opinions without statistics.

C U Anon January 16, 2015 5:09 PM


“Did you get a flue shot this year?”

No, am I in danger of breaking out in chimneys?

Jarrod Frates January 16, 2015 5:21 PM

For the comments on Switzerland, a friend lives not far from Zurich. She is not in the military, and she owns several each of handguns, rifles, shotguns, and fully automatic weapons (two of which were purchased in the last year), and keeps ammo for all of them (and suppressors for some), and shoots them in the forest near her home, sometimes with friends who have similar arsenals.

Reservists keep their state-issued firearm with ammunition in their homes. It does no good to use an empty rifle to fight off an enemy if access to the armory is cut off, and it makes no sense keeping weapons outside of the armory without ammo.

Finally, armed robbery does happen in Switzerland. There was an attempted armed bank robbery on Christmas Eve in Zurich this past year, and a Swiss casino was the target of an armed robbery in 2010.

As I said early in the conversation, it’s important to have facts on your side when you make statements intended to support your position.

Anura January 16, 2015 5:34 PM


There is a line for “Brawl due to influence of narcotics” – which was pretty small. But yes, statistically, if you are around drug users you are more likely to get murdered, but increased risk does not translate to a majority.

albert January 16, 2015 5:50 PM

@Bruce – you really poked the hornets nest this time 🙂
Keep doing what you’re doing. I speak for myself (but probably most of your readers).
Gun control is a hot-button issue. Just mentioning the words ‘guns’ and ‘death’ is enough to get you hung out to dry.
Whether one is pro- or anti-, everyone should read this:
Pay particular attention to the ‘history’ sections, for example, find the year of the SCOTUS decision regarding ‘individual’ gun ownership. The history is interesting, especially the parts concerning militias. Interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, like all Amendments, is a fluid process, so parroting homilies and endless arguments are fruitless.
Regarding the Constitution, I hate to say this, but it’s being marginalized*, slowly, but surely. The NSA is one example you all know well. If the powers that be decide to ignore the 2nd Amendment, they will do so, and no amount of yelling and foot-stamping will help (but the blow-back would be very exciting indeed).
I’m not a Constitutional scholar, but I’m not sure we need ’em right now. What we need is some common sense. Scalia is a ‘Constitutional scholar’. I rest my case.
I gotta go…
*I was going to say ‘pissed on’, but why fuel the fire.

Anura January 16, 2015 6:02 PM


In the debate over whether or not we should ban guns, I don’t think the constitution is very important. The constitution is something that’s difficult to change, but it’s still something that can be changed. If we decide we want to ban all guns, we can ammend the constituion to nullify the second ammendment. That’s probably not feasible in today’s political environment, but it doesn’t mean that we should never ever consider it as a possibility. Just because something’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea.

AlanS January 16, 2015 6:14 PM


There are countries that have much higher rates of gun violence than the US. Many of the countries with higher rates than the US have serious problems of one sort or another (e.g. drugs and gangs  in many central American countries). The US is a bit of an anomaly sitting in between those countries and other stable liberal democracies (Canada, France, UK, Japan, etc.). Nearly all the latter have very much lower rates of gun violence.

If you look at rates for all types of homicide and suicide (i.e. ignore method), The US rate for suicide is similar to other stable liberal democracies but the overall homicide rate is very much higher. So expanding the chart to all homicides doesn’t make much of a difference.

Rate of Suicide (Any Method) per 100 Population

Rate of Homicide (Any Method) per 100 Population

Clive Robinson January 16, 2015 6:26 PM

@ Nick P,

One end of the line is “no guns at all” in which case gun fatalities would be zero, common sense tells us that.

However when it comes to the aprox 2 in 3 gun fatalities where the person is taking their own life, I frequently ask myself if they would actually kill themselves if they did not have access to a gun easy or otherwise?

It’s actually quite difficult to kill yourself, as nature intends us to survive, which is why it is general a slow and painfull process without the assistance of science&industry or fortuitous geography.

I know this because in my time, in my civilian life I have fallen forty foot head first out of a tree and landed on concrete, three hundred feet down a Scottish mountin, been hit in the head several times by the metal boom of a racing sail boat hard enough to knock teeth out. I’ve also been knocked off of my push bike “seriously” five times, one of which catapulted me catherin wheel style over thirty feet, another I was hit in the back of the head and shoulder by a turbuckle on a strap on the side of a lorry going atleast twenty miles an hour faster than me that sent me flying into a wall, on another occasion a caravan towed by a car caused me to fly across a pavment, another where I smashed through the window of a drivers side door they opened right in front of me, and more interestingly by a cricket ball that went into the front wheel when I was on a very busy main road causing me to land on my chin at around thirty miles an hour. I’ve also been a victim of crime, having been stabbed in the head twice and having my head karate kicked from behind into a metal sign pole suffering a full fracture on the point of the lower jaw. I’ve also back in the days of pirate radio fallen off of the roof of a four story building, and cushioned my landing on a barbed wire fence, fallen through another roof and down part way through the ceiling below comming to an eye watering stop with one leg either side of a ceiling joist. And broken several bones playing sport like rugby. I even once got trapped under ice when white water canoing in winter and very nearly drowned, which was such a painfull experience I cannot find the words to adiquately describe it.

And whilst I’m still here more or less in one piece I can assure you that all of those episodes were quite painful, perhaps the least painfull was bouncing down the side of the mountain which made me quite sick but only lightly brusied and grazed.

I think most people instinctively know that killing yourself instantly without pain can only be done with the aid of science, thus tablets and bullets where available are the prefered methods (now we don’t have town gas). After all we know that unlike murder applying a hand held hammer to your head is very unlikely to kill you, likewise stabing yourself, you need to know not just where but how to cut yourself with a knife ( for those considering ritual disembowellment, remember some took hours if not days to die unless they had a friend prepared to assist them ).

There are a few other ways, one I witnessed again just last year when sombody ran off of platform 7 head first into an express train one Saturday afternoon at Wimbledon station leaving bits of body for a hundred yards or so down the track. Thankfully unlike one twenty years ago at Clapham Junction none of the bits got on me this time. I’m not particularly squeamish but I chucked the clothes out rather than wash them and had quite a few showers before I felt clean.

So my fealing is without tablets and bullets there would actually be a sufficiently significant reduction in the number of suicides to be easily visible in the figures in a couple of years.

a non-Y mouse January 16, 2015 6:42 PM

Come on people! Guns are icky! They make loud noises and second hand smoke. Far better to hide your tiny cretaceous brain under a pillow and hope the bad guys mistake your fat ass for a seat cushion.

Infrasonicman January 16, 2015 6:48 PM

With Google perfecting self-driving cars and DARPA perfecting self-shooting guns, the future’s so bright I gotta wear Cobham armor.

parabarbarian January 16, 2015 6:48 PM

I wonder how much of the decline in automobile deaths was caused by high gasoline prices deterring un-necessary driving. I wonder how much of the increase in gun deaths was a consequence of the “recession” and resulting high unemployment rate boosting suicides.

dennis January 16, 2015 7:32 PM

I don’t own guns, not trained to use one, nor am I going to. When these “bans” are being talked about, remember “Gun Ban” does not ban all guns. LEOs will still carry them. This is also observed in any type of “encryption ban” where the commoners are stripped of this priviledge while the priviledged get to keep it.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro January 16, 2015 8:26 PM

I remember a statistic that says that, of gun injuries in the US, 95% are accidental, 3% are deliberate criminal acts, and only 2% could be considered legitimate self-defence. So if you buy a gun in the hope of protecting your loved ones, the odds are overwhelming (50:1) that the story is going to end badly.

To those who object to banning guns because they are dangerous by trying to claim that the same logic should be used to ban cars, let me just ask: can a gun

  • Help you take your kids to school?
  • Help you bring the shopping home from the supermarket?
  • Help you impress a date?

A car can do all these things. But a gun is only good for blowing holes in things.

In other words, a car has constructive uses, while a gun is only destructive.

Zula January 16, 2015 9:37 PM

Thanks to Ant for making it clear that guns are for pencil-necked pussies who can’t defend themselves. If you want to bonk Ant’s loved ones, just disarm him with a wrist tap and get busy. But you probably don’t want to bonk Ant’s loved ones, because they are of inferior stock. After all, he can’t survive without a firearm, so how is he going to get anybody good? Ant is safe, not because his firearm protects him but because he is a piteous omega male who scrapes the bottom of the reproductive barrel and has nothing to covet.

Jeff Nathan January 16, 2015 10:04 PM

The sheer number of logical fallacies employed by the commenters to this blog post is staggering. All manners of ad-homeniem, straw man, poisoning the well, arguments from personal incredulity, arguments from final consequences, confusing association with causation… it’s tempting to list every logical fallacy as most have been used in the comments.

Schneier may or may not have any skin in the game, it’s foolish to assume that making reference to burgeoning stories is an indication of his personal beliefs one way or the other – particularly when the blog post is making no claims nor staking out a position.

I think it’s called cognitive dissonance for a reason and the commenters here are full of it.

Buck January 16, 2015 10:21 PM

@Clive Robinson

It’s actually quite difficult to kill yourself

Clive, just because you are unkillable, that doesn’t mean it is difficult for someone to purposefully take their own life… If you want to talk about the pain, I would suspect a bullet will cause plenty in most positions. Even your precious tablets could backfire on you there… If you can’t come up with any other painless ways to die (even without your town gas – a slow constriction of oxygen should do the trick regardless ;-), then you’re not being creative enough! I’ll salute you for keeping on in face of adversity, but I’ll +1 for any method that eliminates the entire brain in an instant…

Nick P January 16, 2015 11:05 PM

@ all re my post

Alright, let’s backtrack. Surely introducing guns might cause more deaths than otherwise would happen. The problem is I see almost no analysis of the benefit side in these discussions. That so much evil has been prevented or stopped in my own social circle by possession of a firearm makes it hard for me to wrap my head around the anti-gun side. Did they want each event to go the other way? Rape? Muggings? Beatdowns that didn’t stop? My not being here to post?

So, let’s look at it as a cost-benefit analysis like any other risky tool. The number of deaths guns introduce on top of typical murder/suicide/etc rates versus…

  1. The number of muggings they deter or stop.
  2. The number of home invasions they deter or stop.
  3. The number of assaults they deter or stop.
  4. The number of rapes they deter or stop.
  5. The number of murders they deter or stop.

  6. The number of people they feed or financially support in terms of hunters.

  7. The original purpose: the influence lots of guns has on keeping government from going police state on us.

My family, friends, and associates with firearms have seen plenty of benefits in the 1-7 category. Most aren’t even gun nuts. More like just in case with minimal range time. The people that did experience anything in 1-5 weren’t armed and had no self-defense training. That seems true of most people who experience these things with an extra indicator being violent crime dropping after concealed carry laws being passed.

So, what’s the official estimate of the preventative impact of gun ownership for those that own it. We also need to trim the data because looking at gun deaths in isolation is biased: a prevalence of victims without guns and attackers with guns will certainly lead to more gun deaths. If the gun is a positive thing if widely owned, then the current situation of so many people not carrying would give attackers advantage. Does by many thugs’ own admission. So, I’d rather focus on states with permissive gun laws and lots of gun ownership. That gives us a better perspective to start with.

Plus, does anyone know of high quality studies on how many crimes are allegedly prevented in a given area/demographic/whatever and by what method (including guns)? That would be useful.

@ KimberTLE

Hilarious. You might want to watch Southpark Season 16, Episode 1 here. It features a similar concept. 😉

@ AlanS

I’d like to know their method of counting before I’d be sure. I think it was Clive that pointed out the UK likes to counter murder per setting rather than per person. Example: guy kills 3 people counts as one murder. That would skew the numbers quite a bit. I’ll need his confirmation on that but I wonder if the site takes that stuff into account.

@ Paula Thomas

The homicide rate likely has a connection to our gun laws. The incarceration rate is caused by other laws designed to incarcerate more people for more stuff for more time. And prosecutors and cops that rig the game against suspects leading to many pleas to avoid high sentences.

Nick P January 16, 2015 11:18 PM

@ Clive

The availability of guns might increase suicide numbers due to ease of use and effectiveness. The real problem is suicidal behavior, though. Getting rid of an effective tool because self-destructive people might use it just doesn’t seem sensible to me. More reasonable to ban its use by people with self-destructive tendencies but even that’s debatable: their self-protection against aggressors vs self-destruction by themselves. Honestly, I don’t even care about the suicide part of the argument as I place priority on the needs of people trying to live rather than trying to die. It might seem cold but I decided it after putting lots of effort into both types of people. These days, I mostly help those helping themselves.

Anyway, suicide is easy to do if a person wants to do it. Jumping off things, hanging oneself, ODing on drugs, slit wrists in a bathtub, self electrocution in bathtub, jumping in front of a train… the effort they’ve put into finding effective methods is about as depressing as their aversion for life. Only the most incompetent (or emotionally broken up) have difficulty killing themselves I’d guess. I am guessing because I haven’t pulled a lot of data on this.

tyr January 16, 2015 11:33 PM

How about a short history lesson ?

Firearms are over 850 years old
you’d think people would have
finished this debate within a
couple of hundred years.

Schools now teach that guns
are to kill with, when I was
a kid they taught us that if
we shot someone we would be hanged.
The whole town was full of people
who owned multiple guns but no
one used one to kill with.

Canadians have been warned not to
carry cash in USA because the
police will rob them.

It cost millions of dollars to
re-arm the french in WW 2 because
of french gun control laws.

Repeating mistakes is not progress
it is called insanity.

Anytime you hear a “the only thing”
argument you can bet there is a hidden
agenda which is not your friend.
Like the only thing crypto is used
for is to let bad people hide while
doing bad things. After all we want
everyone to have access to our bank
account don’t we? They might have a
better use for your money.

hmmm January 17, 2015 12:33 AM

Coconut – a very apt name for you! No, statistics from an organization with an agenda are not much to go by. By most statistics I have seen, gun CRIME is declining. Bruce is smart about security- not so smart about his constitutional rights protected by he second amendment.

Dave- please do not fib about the anti-second amendment loonies claims they do not want to “take your guns.” According to one of their poster-girl senators out in California, that is exactly what they intend to do. (you know, the one who waives guns around the room, that she has no business touching, and no idea how to handle safely, during crowded press conferences) Also, as to the tiresome comparison of car deaths and firearm deaths- one is a right protected by the constitution, for good reason, and one is not.

In any case, to be honest, how many auto deaths are really an “accident” , when it would probably be more accurate to call stupid, selfish, aggressive, crazy, and reckless PEOPLE the actual cause. Same with guns.

Rick January 17, 2015 12:43 AM

This comment, being #104 on this post, would indicate that firearms elicit a passionate and often polarized reaction from the crowd. Perhaps Bruce chose it for this reason? The subject matter is, after all, a bit different than usual.

I’m enjoying my popcorn and a coca-cola. In fact, I’ll go ahead and throw another log on the fire:

someone January 17, 2015 12:43 AM

S. • January 16, 2015 7:28 AM
“I don’t understand this U.S.-only discussion. Ordinary people in other parts of the world don’t need guns. And they don’t scream for a right to carry a gun.”

How do you know? The people murdered in Paris might have been wishing very hard for them, as they were gunned down by Islamist monsters.

Probably all of the people hacked apart with machetes in Darfur would think you are talking out of your hat.

The average people in Mexico who are pushed around by the armed police, and armed drug gangs, probably would not agree.

One fact all of you who unwisely think average people should be disarmed ignore, is that governments kill far more people than even criminals. That is why we should not give up the right to be armed, and that is why smarter people than all of you wrote it into our founding documents in the US.

someone January 17, 2015 12:56 AM

If true, that is funny TYR:

“Canadians have been warned not to
carry cash in USA because the
police will rob them”

They must be confusing our police with those Mexico- you know, that country to the south that is SO much safer that here because its people have no right to be armed (well, they do on paper, but are never allowed to. ) Mexico is SOOO much safer, with its murder rates at least 3+ X ours.

I have a Mexican friend who tells me how they always carry $20, just in case a cop comes over to extort money from them.

If the People of Mexico armed themselves it might give the gangs, police, militarily, and government a reason to act more like citizens of a legitimate country.

Donald Ball January 17, 2015 9:05 AM

It is fascinating how peoples’ risk analysis skills go out the window on certain topics.

The data are very clear: living in a house with guns is more dangerous than without; living in a country with effective gun controls is less dangerous, with respect to violence, than otherwise. Yet gun ownership is such a powerful fetish for so many that they regard any attempt to grapple with these data as a matter of public policy tantamount to treason. It isn’t a topic they can approach rationally, only emotionally. If I were to speculate from my armchair, I’d guess it has something to do with the increasing brittleness of our systems and impotence in the face of their adverse effects on society, and the attendant desire for at least the illusion of personal control.

For my money, the most effective intervention we could make at this point in history would be to require liability insurance for gun owners.

Nick P January 17, 2015 11:37 AM

@ Rick

THANK YOU! That’s the exact kind of contextual, data-driven analysis I was looking for. I will have to vet the sources. Meanwhile, here’s the breakdown:

CDC 1994: Guns prevent almost 500,000 violent crimes a year per their study.
CDC 2015: Guns were used in 33,000 deaths.

That’s the purest cost/benefit analysis I can see. It still looks favorable for firearm ownership despite my including the full suicides and homicides [which I don’t agree with]. There was also the survey’s of violent offenders where a huge chunk of them said firearms had deterred them before for near victims. All of this matched my anecdotal evidence perfectly.

AlanS January 17, 2015 12:16 PM

@ Nick P

If you click through to the underlying tables you’ll get through to citations on the data sources. These are usually official government publications that provide information on how the data was recorded and information that allows interpretation of the figures and their reliability. I agree that trying to compile comparative data from different countries that may use different methods of counting is problematic. There is always going to be the question: are you comparing apples with apples?

If you click through you can get to the underlying reports and tables published by the UK Home Office. You’ll find an answer to “I think it was Clive that pointed out the UK likes to counter murder per setting rather than per person”:

“Also, where several people are killed by the same suspect, the number of homicides counted is the total number of victims killed rather than the number of incidents. For example, the victims of the Cumbrian shootings on 2 June 2010 are counted as 12 homicides rather than one incident in the 2010/11 data.”

However, there are other differences in the way the figures are counted (even within regions within the UK). I wouldn’t get too caught up in the precision of the figures/charts. Is the rate of US homicide 4.56x greater than the UK? Maybe not exactly. My guess is that the difference may be overstated but I’d probably be comfortable saying the rate is significantly greater. If we got into the figures in more detail and how they were recorded we could probably come up with a more precise measure.

Nick P January 17, 2015 12:28 PM

@ AlanS

I appreciate it. That clears it up a bit. So, more violence over here than there. Maybe due to guns, maybe American culture. More data and analysis are needed.

Donald Ball January 17, 2015 2:55 PM

Rick: You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re citing “Just Facts” as a credible, independent source?

“As shown in the previous footnote, this study did not use a nationally representative population. To correct for this, Just Facts used the following equation”

Beware ideologues cherry-picking and correcting statistics.

If you honestly believe “Just Facts” to be a non-partisan research initiative, you need to work on your critical analysis skills.

Ant January 17, 2015 3:49 PM

Judging by the ad hominem responses, I must have hit pretty close to the mark. Knock yourselves out guys. In choosing to possess and carry firearms I have also chosen to deliberately walk away from any fight or insult that I possibly can. It’s not worth the legal hassles (and expenses) if things escalate.

A few years back I had a situation where some kids cut in front of me at a checkout line. They were quite rude about it. I accepted it placidly. The folks behind me were really quite annoyed by them, and by my attitude towards it all. When I eventually got to the cashier, I explained that it just wasn’t worth the hassle to escalate the situation. Imagine if a fight had broken out, if somebody had pulled a weapon, and if I had had to shoot them to defend myself or somebody else. It’s just not worth it. If you want to carry a gun, you have to be able to walk away from things like this. Just walk away.

I should add that guns take several hours of lessons to learn how to handle safely. Skip this step, and you can lose a few fingers, or worse, very easily. Far too many people lack elementary education. They don’t know how to clean a gun, where not to touch, what parts move, where the flame blasts out when discharged, how to clear a stovepipe jam, how to handle a misfire, or worse a hang fire, without injuring yourself or others, etc, etc.

I’ve acquired several firearms from folks who inherited them, did not know how to handle them, did not want them, and in one case nearly shot me out of ignorance. (ALWAYS assume the gun is loaded! DO NOT put a finger inside the trigger guard until you have aimed the weapon and are ready to discharge it. DO NOT hold a gun by its trigger. DO NOT point a gun anywhere you cannot accept a hole. Etc. Etc. Really basic stuff!)

Sadly, too many people think guns are bad. Tragically, this sort of basic education is deliberately withheld from the general population to increase the number of accidents and thereby perpetrate the myth that guns are evil and must be outlawed for our own safety.

In those hours of lessons on safety, don’t overlook inheritance upon your death or disposal when you can no longer keep your weapons secure

For those who think weapons at home increase danger: Do learn how to store them securely, in a locked safe, unloaded. How many times do you really think you need a weapon at home that you can’t afford a few seconds to press a few buttons on a combination lock, or to use a key, to remove your weapon from secured storage?

All that education, that doesn’t mean you can shoot accurately or effectively. Hitting a target, especially under stress, but even just in general with all the time in the world, takes practice. Hundreds of hours, and many thousands or tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition spread across many many MANY days of practicing. You may need weightlifting training to build up your arm muscles, or swimming to drop your heart rate down. It’s a lot harder than they make it look in the movies.

And do get your posture right before you start shooting. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. If you don’t handle the forces coming off the firearm correctly, you will hurt yourself. You have to learn how to do it right or the recoil will cause you to kiss the barrel, and it will hurt. Similarly, watch your brass. Discharging a firearm is a very exothermic reaction, and the casings will burn you if you’re not careful. This is why folks who shoot wear hats and high-necked shirts.

For those wishing to commit suicide, my thoughts go with you. If you are young and otherwise healthy, especially if it is depression, please seek help. Your perspective on life is compromised. You will think differently about life if you get help. Depression is a physical illness correlated with altered neurotransmitter levels across the synaptic gap throughout the brain. It can be fixed. Our current cultural bias against mental illness is horribly tragic. Overcome it, and find the many joys and pleasures in life.

That said, I’ve seen how we handle end of life in this country. The pain, the suffering, the outright torture of our elderly, the dragging out of death while surviving family is bleed dry financially. I do not wish to see my wife or children lose their home, turned out into the cold, living on the streets, going hungry while my assets are foreclosed upon to pay medical bills that keep me alive against my will in agony for a few extra days.

Guns are a popular means of suicide. Quick & effective, if you do it right. Horribly painful and tragic if you screw it up. Therefore, bombs are better. Or jumping in front of a train.

There are far superior means of dying. Try the alt.suicide faq.

Much of what you think is effective is not. You just wind up crippling yourself, or living in agony helplessly for many more years.

The simplest, and least painful, seems to be an oxygen-free environment. Keep the CO2 out, and you won’t suffer much. Nitrogen, helium, pretty much any inert gas. Just don’t use CO2. And if you use something flammable like hydrogen watch out for sparks.

Yes, I’ve thought about it. I saw what happened to my parents and grandparents and great grandparents and I do not want to suffer like they had to. There are worse things than dying.

Perhaps, when we look at suicides, we should differentiate between tragic disease that can be cured (depression), and those at the end of their life who wish to avoid suffering.

Nick P January 17, 2015 3:54 PM

@ Donald Ball

Rick at least offered a page referencing a bunch of studies and surveys of each part of the issue. Some were from same organization Bruce cites. Feel free to post yours that is less biased and contradicts his. I’d love to see more data.

Ell January 17, 2015 4:12 PM

As a tourist to America, the sound of gunshots and sirens ringing through the night in downtown San Francisco did not exactly make me feel comfortable in the city. Nowhere else in the world, and I’ve been to some pretty ‘dodgy’ countries (which always surprise me with their friendliness), have I had that unsettling experience; where even in a 6th floor hotel room there is actually the possibility of an encounter with a stray bullet.

However, on the topic of the blog; the thing that will actually prevent me from voluntarily visiting the place again is the airport security charade.

Rick January 17, 2015 5:25 PM

@ Donald

It is difficult for any organization or individual to avoid bias on issues that elicit such strong opinion. Gun control, abortion, capital punishment, and nuclear arms are just a few that come to mind.

With that said, I cited the amalgamation of firearms data because 1) I was familiar with it/had read it in the past 2) there is a lot of data (not to mention eclectic) to sift through, much of which provides evidence to support a variety of conclusions, even sometimes that no conclusion can be determined and 3) it is somewhat logically arranged for easy perusal and quoting.

I never intended (nor stated) for that source to be considered the arbiter and sentinel of all things firearms-related.

However, to illustrate just how nasty and mired this debate can get, we can just as easily cite the following, many of which will suit your tastes depending upon how strongly you associate with one side of the argument:

Leaning one way:


somewhere in the middle (maybe… or maybe not):



Leaning another way:


@ Nick,

Thank you for the defense of my input on the debate. I think you understood the context in which it was offered.

@ All,

Do not facts speak for themselves regardless of the bias of the presenter? If– and this is of course the big, big “IF”– the facts are carefully chosen to represent the whole of the matter, then bias should be effectively eliminated. And therein lies the rub, no?

Clive Robinson January 17, 2015 7:28 PM

@ Rick,

Do not facts speak for themselves regardless of the bias of the presenter?

Err you need to take a step backwards first and establish that “the facts” are those that can actually pass scientific tests as facts, otherwise all further argument no matter how biased or unbiased the presenter is will end up being biased ( the GIGO principle ).

Some of the graphs in the report you give are suspicious. If you look they include the overall US figures, which shows a “bump”. If you then look at the area specific curve above it also shows the same bump but importantly skewed forward to the right on the year access. This indicates that the area specific curve happend some years later than the US general trend. Now the same effect is seen for the other area specific curves. This indicates there is a problem with the data being presented…

It could be down to several issues but it’s a “Red Flag” that something needs to be further explained to account for it. Worse the paper not only does not do this, it does nott explain it’s methodology either, such that other researchers can investigate / follow up. This renders the paper worse than usless and any other researcher that refrences it except to say it’s sufficiently unreliable to be excluded from consideration is going to damage their own credability.

Now I can see from your comment you realise you were just adding fat to the fire rather than meat to the argument, but some others may well not have seen it… Maybe next time add a smiley or some such to give a greater language independent visual clue.

With regards why Bruce occasionally throws in a “hot button topic” it might be an experiment like his “click bait” experiment, it might also be to alow people to “vent” occasionaly, who knows (other than Bruce 😉

However changes in “trends” no matter how contentious are important to note, because even though we might be in a fairly eclectic profession, it does not function in some rarefied atmosphere but the real world, where those changes indicate underlying social changes that might influence what we see or do in the near future within our field of endevor.

For example of a trend that is going to be seen in our profession, take the drop in oil prices. Whilst causing a temporary but welcome drop in consumer prices, it is going to result in job losses in the longer term, which will effect the economy detrementaly to some extent. However it is already having a critical effect on other nations economies. Russia for instance, is critically dependent on oil and gas export earnings, so it’s economy is tanking, this may well cause an increase in cyber-crime as a consequence, it might also start a kinetic war or two as well, which would definitely cause cyber-warfare if Russia is involved as recent spats with eastern european nations has demonstrated.

Anura January 17, 2015 7:30 PM


Do not facts speak for themselves regardless of the bias of the presenter? If– and this is of course the big, big “IF”– the facts are carefully chosen to represent the whole of the matter, then bias should be effectively eliminated. And therein lies the rub, no?

Well, selectively presenting information is the most popular form of lying among politicians and pretty much anyone who debates any topic. Hell, we even lie to ourselves by ignoring data that contradicts our point of view. And that’s the problem with these websites and data, is that you don’t know how the data was chosen. All we can do is try to find out what we can about the people who present it, and try to look at any website with suspicion. Just Facts is definitely one I would be suspicious about:


blockquote>James D. Agresti, the president and primary researcher, holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University and has worked as a designer of jet engine components and systems, a technical sales professional, and chief engineer of a firm that customizes helicopters. He is also the author of Rational Conclusions, a meticulously researched book evidencing factual support for the Bible across a broad array of academic disciplines.

Yeah, no thank you.

Rick January 17, 2015 10:50 PM

@ Clive, Anura, et. al.,

The notion that facts need to pass muster first and foremost, irrespective of the presenter, regardless of the hypothesis advanced forward is self evident. No sane person could fairly disagree. The truth has no agenda.

Any alternative web site to the one I first mentioned as a source of statistics will assuredly choose yet another set of facts to emphasize. Just as Anura mentioned, selectively providing information is one of the most common forms of intentional bias (lying). Outright and intentional “doctoring” of the data (quasi-legitimate interpolation/extrapolation aside) simply raises the stakes to another level of dishonesty and should rightfully be entirely discredited.

I would suggest, too, that the same scrutiny should be applied to all data sources whether they be government owned, originated from a lobbyist, an NGO, a research entity, a university, or an individual. And that was largely my point with another post this evening that cited seven additional sources of firearms statistics from various political platforms.

Caveat emptor applies, but if everyone were to make an honest attempt to vet their sources and strive for mastery instead of their agenda, at least some debates could be settled in a civil manner where all involved profit. Clive’s observation that the data is likely flawed, if held true, is a worthy point to add to the debate and I stand corrected. If other data originating from that same web site holds true with legitimate sources to back it up, then let it stand as well.

Huh? January 17, 2015 11:05 PM

33,000 gun deaths? That’s kind of odd considering that the murder rate in America is at the lowest point it has been in 50 years. We average about 14,000 murders per year, compared to the height of over 25,000 in 1991. In the 1980’s we averaged about 20,000 per year.

I suppose the 33,000 number is accounting for suicides and accidents. It has to be otherwise these numbers do not jibe with the FBI crime statistics.

Ole Juul January 17, 2015 11:36 PM

Regardless of the wisdom of the article or of Bruce referencing it here, there does appear to be a big problem. The very fact that this subject gets so much attention. Why are people so defensive about having guns? Why do you even care what other people think? There is something wrong here, and just the number of comments shows it.

R. January 18, 2015 8:15 AM

For those wishing to commit suicide, my thoughts go with you. If you are young and otherwise healthy, especially if it is depression, please seek help.

That is just societal dogma which you have been indoctrinated with.

Some people have a different opinion, that forcing people who don’t want to live to keep living is cruel.

bob January 18, 2015 10:47 AM

Did any read that article about the gunnut who took his 4 year old daughter to a shooting range and gave her an Uzi and she killed the instructor? Long time since I’ve read one that funny.

What about the story of the gunnut who’s kid got hold of the gun and kill his sibling? That’s hilarious. Happens pretty much monthly. Always good for a laugh.

What about the old lady gunnut recently who accidentally shot herself in a shop? Pretty funny. Would have been funnier if she’d died.

What about the cop at a school who shot himself in the foot? That was a good one. Would have been even better if he’d managed to take out a few kids.

Ah well, it’s better to be killed by a fellow USAian then one of those Economist, enslaved, liberal terrorists. I mean have you seen those guys? They’re everywhere!

Shaun January 18, 2015 10:52 AM


James D. Agresti, the president and primary researcher, holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University and has worked as a designer of jet engine components and systems, a technical sales professional, and chief engineer of a firm that customizes helicopters. He is also the author of Rational Conclusions, a meticulously researched book evidencing factual support for the Bible across a broad array of academic disciplines.

Yeah, no thank you.

Anura, I hear you loud and clear; no Bible thumpers! But this kind of habitual dismissiveness can lead you to ignoring Mr. Agresti when he warns you of the oncoming bus as you step off the sidewalk. An open mind, which I assume you believe you have, requires a bit more thought.

Would you be more receptive to his information if he were instead a Satanist or perhaps a Quaker? Would you be more comfortable if instead, Sandra Fluke presented her research on gun control?

If Mr. Agresti presents data and its source, go with that. You don’t have to agree with any conclusions he draws.

Don’t be like the man marooned on an island that won’t attend the dinner offered by another survivor simply because he is a Christian, Jew, Negro, insert personal bigotry here_______________.

Anura January 18, 2015 1:12 PM


It’s not that he’s religious, it’s that he wrote an entire book containing “evidence” that the bible is real. That means he has to be very good at seeing things that are not there while ignoring things that don’t fit his belief.

Shaun January 18, 2015 2:17 PM


“James D. Agresti is a former atheist who became a Christian after reading the Bible from cover to cover and finding objective evidence for its accuracy. ”

His book is not online, but all of his cites are, which is refreshing. He’s not a polemicist.

My point is not about his path to Christianity, it’s the wealth of citations his ‘justfacts’ website provides and their value to open-minded people on either side of the ‘gun control’ debate. The website is not the last word on the topic, rather, its a great place for both sides to research hard facts and evaluate their value to the debate.

To reject the ‘justfacts’ website simply because he converted to Christianity and wrote a book of that experience puts you in a difficult position; if you really believe he is ‘seeing things that are not there’ then you must further research which aircraft he has had a hand in engineering and decide not to fly on them.

All the best.

John Michael Thomas January 18, 2015 2:32 PM

Bruce, I’m disappointed. The data in these is totally suspect, meaning every possible conclusion is also suspect.

  1. The data from the Bloomberg article is dated back to 2010. That’s out of date, especially considering the well-documented decline in violent crime that’s been continuing from 2010-2014. The article itself is over 2 years old; printing it now as some kind of revelation is misleading at best.
  2. Bloomberg is known to have a very strong anti-gun bias (it’s founder is one of the strongest anti-gun crusaders in the country). So both the data and the points in the article are suspect, unless you provide a counterpoint arguing the opposite point (and there are many).
  3. The data in the first article shows the gun violence trend increasing, while the data in the second article shows it as flat. If the two articles don’t even agree on the data that supposedly supports their point, how can you trust and promote their conclusions?

Come on Bruce, it’s all about the data, and neither of these articles provides reliable data.

There are plenty of shills in the comments that will argue for or against guns and gun control no matter what data you provide. But you didn’t make an effort to provide good data, or vet what you did provide.

You know better than almost anyone that data can be manipulated, and that articles and studies are completely unreliable without looking for contrary evidence. And the data and conclusions from these articles are way too suspect for you to be promoting them without looking deeper. You can do better.

Please don’t jump on the bandwagon with everybody else who will ignore and manipulate the data to support their pre-decided point. If you’re going to jump into the ring of a controversial topic, at least give us some reliable and unbiased data that we can use to make real decisions.

John Michael Thomas January 18, 2015 2:49 PM

@Anura you’re making a common logical mistake.

You’ve decided that God/Christianity isn’t real and therefore you’ve decided that Agresti is wrong to cite facts supporting it. Unfortunately that’s a backward (and unscientific) approach.

The scientific approach would be to start with no decision about the existence of God or validity of Christianity, and then evaluate each of Agresti’s points of evidence to see if it’s valid or not, and each of his conclusions to see if they logically fall out from the evidence.

But by deciding first that belief in God/Christianity is incorrect, you’re guilty of scientific bias, because you came to a conclusion before looking at the evidence, and then decided to interpret the evidence to support your conclusion.

So you may not like to hear it, but you’re guilty of the problem you’re accusing Agresti of.

I haven’t read Agresti’s book, but I suspect his evidence is suspect and his logic is flawed. However I can’t judge the man without going through the process of evaluating his work objectively – which means I have to be open to the possibility that his work and his conclusions may be valid. And even if I go through that process and disagree with him, that doesn’t mean he’s a flawed scientist – legitimate scientists disagree (and even feud) about the validity of evidence and the conclusions to make from the evidence all the time.

We have to look at each set of evidence and conclusions separately. Yes, it takes work, but we can’t claim to be rational or scientific if we don’t

Clive Robinson January 18, 2015 3:19 PM

@ John Michael Thomas,

If you’re going to jump into the ring of a controversial topic, at least give us some reliable and unbiased data that we can use to make real decisions.

That presupposes that there is “some reliable and unbiased data that we can use”.

As has been noted above the CDC and other government orgs are funded by the decisions of politicians. Thus their focus is likely to be one of second guessing the politicos and trying to stay on the funding side of them.

All of the primary data on guns in the US has come through such organisations, thus it cannot even remotely be considered unbiased.

For instance as has been pointed out how do you count gun crimes, by the individuals committing them or by the number of people effected. If the latter do you only count in deaths those who died at the crime scene, within 48 hours, within a month etc. How about if an injured person commits suicide six months later because of the effects of the crime?

It is thus very difficult to get the data right even for the most honest and impartial of observers, how easy do you think it would be for a less than impartially funded organisation to present the figures in “the best light” of their paymasters?

Thus with all gun data you are taking “pot luck” and anybody could view it with skepticism and thus take “pot shots” not at the data collators who might deserve it but at the person giving links to the data…

Anura January 18, 2015 4:10 PM

@John Michael Thomas

You’ve decided that God/Christianity isn’t real and therefore you’ve decided that Agresti is wrong to cite facts supporting it. Unfortunately that’s a backward (and unscientific) approach.

No, I have decided since every single person who has ever tried to prove the stores in the bible are real has been debunked and that the stories in the bible would show to refute common sense and science as we know it (e.g. Noah’s Ark) that the field of proving the bible real deserves the same treatment as the chemtrail and HAARP conspiracy theorists. You don’t have to take a neutral stance on an argument when they are taking a position that has been refuted time and time again. Because there has not been a single person who has ever demonstrated actual magic, anyone who starts out with the position “Magic is real” but cannot demonstrate it can safely be ignored.

Shaun January 18, 2015 5:07 PM

The devil is in the details…

‘Despite England requiring all handguns be turned over to the police in 1997, crimes committed with firearms increased from 1998 to 2002’ Reports like this don’t look good for gun grabbers and may be cited by pro-gun groups, but…the Brits are a funny people. The Brits include crimes committed with airsoft guns and imitation firearms. For those that don’t know, an airsoft gun fires a plastic pellet half the size of a pea and it cannot pierce skin, it’s used for practice by some shooters. ‘Imitation firearms’ include wood models and ‘finger guns’ used by toddlers.

But it gets worse.

From 1998 to 2005 firearm injuries in England increased 110%. That is a terrifying increase and certainly reason for the gun control crowd to rally the troops, but…the Brits are a funny people. The Brits include ‘slight’ injuries from non-airsoft guns. OK so far and this could reasonably include failed suicides or attempted murders or ADs but in jolly old England it includes ‘87% of such injuries were defined as “slight,” which includes the use of firearms as a threat only’.

So if your store is held up by an armed hooligan and NO ONE IS SHOT, the very brandishing of a gun is an injury. In this context I can only assume wetting your pants or evacuating your bowels is an ‘injury’ for government crime purposes.

These Brits are ass kickers, no two ways about it.

My point remains that in a highly contested topic like gun control, the devil is in the details.

Nick P January 18, 2015 5:53 PM

re justfacts religious side

Shaun has the right approach. I’ve noticed in countless discussions people might be fact-driven on some topics and emotion/faith-driven on others. There’s often indicators. The gun debate page cited the right kind of evidence with thorough detail and context. It integrated nicely. How much of it was selective presentation or good pieces of data are the next step. It’s very different than most sermons, political shouting matches, or “christian science” claims. So, no need to disregard him right off the bat.

@ John Michael Thomas

The scientific approach is: (a) observation of the world around you, (b) hypothesis about it, (c) putting them to the test, (d) refining/rejecting/expanding based on feedback, (e) peer review at various stages to catch problems. So, the scientific process for establishing why we’re here might start with looking at the Earth’s properties, the creatures on the Earth, their behavior/genes/similarities/differences, the Universe around us, fossil record, and so on. That’s what most scientists do and they typically come to opposite conclusions of the Bible.

The Bible method, on the other hand, is that copies of anonymous authors making wild claims that don’t match observations are trusted totally, not questioned (faith), complied with via its laws, and money given to priesthood it delegates. The very opposite of science, similar to many other anonymous religious works, and similar to the process con men use to gain power or wealth. Scientists must weight that claim against a status quo derived through hundreds of years of observations, testing, debate, modeling, digging, and so on. The proper choice is to default on the status quo of no God or magical Jesus existing until the book’s proponents present substantial evidence of its seemingly impossible claims.

Here’s a nice essay on proper historical methods and using them to evaluate Gospels. They fall short even for historical works of their time.

Dirk Praet January 18, 2015 6:01 PM

@vas pup, @Zaph

Ask French folks in Paris in particular the same question after recent events.

Feel free to conduct a survey. Most likely the only people to respond positively are American expats living there.


The people murdered in Paris might have been wishing very hard for them, as they were gunned down by Islamist monsters.

Are you suggesting that the entire Charlie Hebdo staff should have had guns readily available in their offices on top of the armed police officers who were outside ? There is no defense against such attacks, not in France and not in the US. Same thing could have happend at WaPo or NYT offices, even with staffers carying guns. Which I doubt would have been allowed by company policy.


As I have said before on this blog, this is a strictly religious debate, especially in the US, with both sides interpreting any statistical data in whatever way that suits them best. I for one am very happy to be living in a country that has very strict gun control and with a gun deaths rate per 100,000 people about one tenth that of the US. And which I very much doubt would improve by relaxing currrent legislation.

Anura January 18, 2015 7:50 PM

@Nick P

The gun debate page cited the right kind of evidence with thorough detail and context.

I felt the data was presented in such a way to be deliberately misleading. For example:

During the years in which the D.C. handgun ban and trigger lock law was in effect, the Washington, D.C. murder rate averaged 73% higher than it was at the outset of the law, while the U.S. murder rate averaged 11% lower.

That’s presenting it in such a way that seems intended to make you think that the handgun ban caused the homicide rate to increase, but in reality the average murder rate was pretty much unchanged for a decade following the ban, and it didn’t skyrocket until the nationwide crime epidemic of the late 80s and early 90s, after which it dropped off quickly long before the ban was struck down. The only thing we can conclude from that large and non-granular set of data is that there is little reason to believe that the ban had any effect on crime.

There’s another piece that is being ignored, and that is there was a sharp population decrease during this time, which can skew the murder rate data. For example, if a lot of middle class families move because crime goes up (which I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case here), then even though total homicides barely change, it can cause the crime rates to increase dramatically.

So it’s either deliberately misleading, or just suffers from amateur analysis. This is just one example, all of the notes tend to suffer from the same issues.

Nick P January 18, 2015 8:17 PM

I was focusing on different numbers to achieve the cost-benefit analysis. My focus areas were on “deaths that wouldn’t exist without guns” (some fraction of gun deaths) vs crimes prevented by guns. So, there were metrics on what was prevented that seemed to be corroborated by data from prisoners with a huge chunk admitting they backed off at least once worried about a gun. The prevention side outweighed the losses.

Guns have a multi-part nature. They’re supposed to cause death some times and not other times. They’re also supposed to prevent violence. They’re also supposed to keep the U.S. government acting at least somewhat responsibly toward its citizenry. Articles like Bruce linked to focus only on the death part in isolation. They virtually never refer to the beneficial aspects, treating it like a pure risk. That’s not responsible evaluation of their cost vs benefits.

Brandioch Conner January 19, 2015 12:28 AM

@Nick P

My focus areas were on “deaths that wouldn’t exist without guns” (some fraction of gun deaths) vs crimes prevented by guns.

Nicely stated. And a bit more informative than “X deaths by guns in year Y”.

Which is where I disagree with the article that Bruce quoted.

Shooting deaths in 2015 will probably rise to almost 33,000, and those related to autos will decline to about 32,000, based on the 10-year average trend.

If you die in 2015 (non-suicide), then it is more likely your death will be car-related rather than gun-related. The exact opposite of what that article seems to be implying.

Nick P January 19, 2015 8:44 AM

@ Brandioch Conner

Good example of how adding suicides cooks the numbers in a bad direction.

keith January 19, 2015 9:20 AM


What surprised me more than the numbers of the report (not read), but the level at which emotions override the normally rational and anatomical that frequent this blog.
Wonder if anyone has done any studies regarding emotional reaction to analytical data (of any kind).

and thus the security impact.
e.g. temporally aligning with one side of an issue to socially engineer, politic, etc


With regards why Bruce occasionally throws in a “hot button topic”
Hope he’s doing as study – or infers some useful info from the chaos. – even if it’s ‘blog readers are more emotional about guns, than X’
We’ve seen gun topic occur before, so it could be the litmus test for current emotional stakes, against which other tests posts are measured (vs.’ unique’ visitors etc).

Fascist Nation January 19, 2015 4:16 PM

Kind of how you measure it. I am glad traffic deaths continue to decline. Probably more a tribute to how well cars are designed these days, the increasing speed limits on highways reducing driver fatigue and the price of gas declining the avg. number of miles driven.

Firearms deaths include the people killed by law enforcement and justified homicides. They are not separated from suicide (though there is some separation available in this category), accident or non-justified homicide.

MarkH January 19, 2015 5:29 PM

It’s a little sad — or hilarious, depending on one’s perspective — that any post referring to firearm death statistics is guaranteed to trigger a massive barrage of prejudiced and emotion-driven commentary, even from frequent commenters who usually seem to approach things more sensibly.

I can’t help visualizing Pavlov’s dogs, mindlessly drooling whenever the bell rings.

A testament to the inherent weakness of the human brain, and an examplar of why decision-making on security matters so very often wrong.

Wael January 19, 2015 6:05 PM

@Gerard van Vooren, @Nick P,

About religion, George Carlin has an interesting view

George Carlin was a great comedian and a thinker. I watched almost all of his shows. His sarcastic view on religion had some truth to it, but he’s hardly a reference for “truth” on the subject. Search for “George Carlin'” and “The owners of the country” for his relevant view to other matters that are frequently discussed here.

Another Guy January 19, 2015 6:31 PM

These stats dont’ mean jack. If cars are banned will car deaths be reduced statistically? hell yea.

jw January 20, 2015 4:03 PM

The CDC and Bloomberg know that homicide by firearm is DOWN to near record levels, so in order to distort the issue they add suicides to invent a new metric more than twice as large – “gun deaths”.

The Japanese have almost no guns. They have a very low murder rate. However, their suicide rate is greater than the US murder and suicide rate COMBINED. All without “gun deaths”.

Additionally, there is an overwhelming percentage of homicides (gun and otherwise) committed by blacks on blacks. Without this effect, the US homicide rate is less than Belgium’s and in line with the rest of Europe.

It ain’t the guns.

vas pup January 20, 2015 4:06 PM

@Jarrod:”Finally, armed robbery does happen in Switzerland. There was an attempted armed bank robbery on Christmas Eve in Zurich this past year, and a Swiss casino was the target of an armed robbery in 2010.” Thank you for your whole posting and that part in particular.”

Utter Martyr Semmitch January 21, 2015 4:30 AM

Oh come one, folks, suicide IS self-defense in America, thus its justifiable homicide. God Bless America!

Dave January 23, 2015 8:32 AM

Guns are a really really touchy subject in the US. Some of the reasons why, based on my conversations with friends and coworkers who are gun owners:
1. Some male gun owners in particular see questioning their guns as questioning their manhood. This has very deep roots, going back at least a century or two.

  1. Even as crime has been going down, fear of crime has been going up. A lot of gun owners assume that if they don’t have their gun, they or someone they care about will be killed by a criminal. There are significant numbers who hope to be a hero one day by taking out a bad guy.

  2. A significant number of people have fantasies about a group of armed citizens successfully rebelling against the federal government. (The reason these are pure fantasy is that the group of armed citizens might have AR-15s, but the government has much heavier weapons like missiles that AR-15s do nothing to stop.) This is why some gun owners oppose anything that could potentially inform the government who has which guns.

  3. There’s a significant racist angle as well. A lot of white gun owners see the gun as their only defense against a horde of lawless black people. And that’s a big part of why it’s gotten even more touchy during the Obama administration.

  4. Conservatives generally believe that liberals, if given the chance, would try to take all their guns. This is true even if the liberals in question make no attempt to do so. For example, a lot of conservatives believe Obama wants to take their guns, even though he has never said so. This is also mixed in with the last 2 points: The idea is that this forms a key part of the liberals’ secret plan to have black people take over the country by force.

Brandioch Conner January 23, 2015 4:05 PM

1. “Manhood”. Women also own guns.

  1. “Hero”.
  2. Check Wikipedia for “The Battle of Athens”. Or, more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan.
  3. “Racist”.
  4. And more racist.

Those points sound less like conversations you’ve had with people who own guns and more like claims made about people who own guns.

That reminds me more of the “debate” between Sam Harris and Bruce. Look it up.

MarkH January 24, 2015 3:10 PM


The five points you posted are firmly grounded in reality.

It is, of course, futile to bring reality into a theological discussion.

Nick P January 24, 2015 3:59 PM

Re Dave

I agree with Brandioch on Dave’s post that he’s obviously neither talked to nor studied data on gun owners. Also projecting racist interpretation that even most racists Ive met have never argued. A few claims come close to truth in rural areas (esp South):

  1. Except it’s more tradition and rights than manhood. Southerners dont like governments taking away anything we deem important.
  2. This one is true in many Southern states’ rural areas and some suburbs. Right-wing media partly a cause given it plays on this fear and selectively shows audience evidence of Big Government trampling on them. However, the continuing trampling on both civil liberties and gun rights along with militarization of the police are evidence for their view as they tell it.

Note: I doubt that will happen given there’s no need to: US is already a plutonomy, surveillance state, and easily incapable of incarcerating political opponents. Fait accompli worked better than frontal assault because people have illusion that they’re in control somehow.

  1. Conservatives believe, many times with quotes, that certain liberals want guns banned. Others think that most liberals want to make guns very hard to get or use, often citing particular politicians or laws. More paranoid types (minority) think all are the same: wanting to ban guns with tricky legislation. Quite different than your version.

Interesting enough, I did a teardown of that gun show law that ID’d it as belonging to the “paranoid fear” above. It claimed to just require checks to stop violent lunatics or criminals from getting guns. IIRC, the actual wording said it applies to a more general class of criminals, people with “mental illness,” and with ATF making sole call without appeal. That wording is broad enough to apply to most of America and would be enforced by a very anti-gun group. Intentionally by sneaky liberals or accident of legal writing, pro-gun groups were right to call it as a mass gun grab risk disguised as a reasonable regulation.

So, the main issues here are a certain demographic in pro-gun movement are paranoid about government and watch media telling them what the want to here. (Liberals do similar stuff.) Additionally, the actions of LEO’s and some, liberal lawmakers give them reasons to worry. Three obvious areas of improvement to reduce issues that demographic might cause.

Nick P January 24, 2015 4:03 PM

EDIT: “easily capable of incarcerating political opponents” is what I meant. Massively powerful police organizations plus more laws all the time means they always have more power without a direct takeover.

Packet Guy February 15, 2015 8:58 AM

I’m surprised nobody tumbled to the true significance of the Economist report. Both gun and auto deaths are way down (and guns are not “slightly rising” as Bruce claimed, but according to the Economist are still down trending: look at the graph). But auto deaths are dropping faster in recent years.

I wonder what is causing the deceleration in falling gun deaths? It looks like its because increasingly militarized POLICE are killing 30% more people over the last decade or so. And that rate is rising. If not for the huge sustained ramp-up in police killing civilians (including many innocents caught by no-knock warrant debacles), gun deaths would have continued to drop faster than auto deaths.

The WP article is just talking about “justified” killings by police. It doesn’t tally the unjustified shootings, which have also skyrocketed, nor the number of people wounded or maimed. And this is just gun incidents. Police also kill many innocents with beatings, tasers, and suffocation.

The most effective way to reduce gun deaths further, it would seem, is to disarm police.

Greg1 February 15, 2015 2:17 PM

Bruce, I have much respect for you, but SHAME on you for getting pulled into the anti-gun fog of facts. You’re smarter than that! (Bloomberg?! He’s a rabid anti-gun person. Surely you must know this.)

Do yourself and your family a favor, go to a fun range with a responsible friend and shoot a gun. Learn the safety rules. Reality isn’t as scary and simplistic as the mass news media portraits it. You of all people should know that.

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