Thursday, December 17, 2015

Are you more likely to be killed by a gun or a car?

The New Republic tells us it's "no longer true" that "you’re more likely to die in a car accident" than by being shot (in the United States). TNR's evidence is that the number of gun-related fatalities has just barely exceeded the number of deaths in car accidents.

But that conclusion is at odds with the evidence. TNR follows the standard practice of those who support stricter gun control in focusing on gun-related deaths in general, without pointing out that many of those deaths are suicides or killings in self-defense.

TNR links to a Washington Post blog post that says that about two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides. So if you, like most people, are confident you're not going to intentionally kill yourself with a gun, then it's safe to say you're more likely to die in a car crash than by being shot.

I don't know how many of the gun deaths were killings in self-defense — I imagine it's difficult to come up with reliable statistics on that. But of course being fatally shot in self-defense is a serious concern only for those who attempt to commit serious crimes.

TNR also says that "gun deaths have inched up" (while fatal car crashes have declined), which gives the impression that you should be alarmed at your increasing likelihood of being fatally shot. After all, the TNR post is largely written in the second person, talking about "you." But the WaPo post clarifies that the increase in "gun deaths" has been driven by increasing gun-related suicides — not gun-related homicides, which have been decreasing.