First of all it’s pretty difficult to take seriously the premise that guns are more dangerous than cars. In 1994 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) release a publication which made the exact same claim. According to that article firearms related deaths would exceed the number of deaths related to vehicle crashes in the United States by 2003.
We are ten years past that prediction and it is not even close to coming true. When you look at the number of firearms in the United States as apposed to the number of motor vehicles it is obvious that firearms are far safer.
The CDC actually breaks out a listing specific to death caused by “accidental discharge of firearms”. For 2010 there were 606 such deaths, in the same period there were 37,961 deaths in “transportation accidents”.
There are an estimated 245 Million motor vehicles in the U.S. and estimated 310 million firearms. Firearms are designed to produce damage to the target. Vehicles are not intended to do any damage at all.
Take into consideration that there are about twenty percent more guns than cars in the U.S. you would expect far more accidents with firearms. The reason you do not see this in actuality is that the law abiding citizen who owns a firearm are by their very nature disciplined. Firearms owners on average know the responsibility of owning a gun and take it seriously. Consider that millions of rounds of ammunition are expended every year in practice, competition, plinking and hunting. The tiny number of deaths legitimately attributable to firearms accidents is proof of the great care and thought that goes into properly handling guns by law abiding citizen.
Some of you may be screaming that I left out a lot of deaths that are tracked in the CDC data related for firearms. There were 19,392 suicides using firearms in 2010 and 11,078 homicides that involved a firearm. Terrible as it is, these were intentional acts, not accidents, so they do not belong in a comparison of the danger of firearms vs. motor vehicles, unless you have an agenda that is opposed to firearms.
In the United States, motor vehicle-related injuries are the leading cause of death for people age 5-34. Suicide and unintentional poisonings are more common than death by accidental firearms injuries.
The unintentional poisoning category is a growing cause of death. Beginning in 2004, poisoning deaths outnumbered firearm deaths and have increased at a greater pace than firearm deaths since then. Unintentional drug poisonings are the largest component of poisoning deaths; they are primarily related to drug overdose and their rates of increase have outpaced those of all poisonings.
Often the statistics for firearms deaths are commingled so that it is difficult to determine if the deaths are due to negligence. Occasionally justifiable force by law enforcement is included in the numbers, further muddying the waters.
It’s popular to attempt to make firearms seem more dangerous than they are. The CDC often reports all firearms related deaths as “injury death”. This is misleading because it includes homicide and suicide in these statistics. We would not do this for motor vehicle deaths. Strictly speaking the later two (homicide and suicide) are not unintended injuries or accidents so they do not belong in a comparison of accidental death. Simply looking at the accidental deaths related to these tools the motor vehicle was involved in 62 times more deaths than firearms in 2010.
Below are the top ten causes of death according to the CDC. There is much more to be gained by concentrating on these problems than on guns. But that’s not as dramatic.
- Heart disease: 597,689
- Cancer: 574,743
- Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
- Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
- Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
- Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
- Diabetes: 69,071
- Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
- Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
- Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364