Accidental Gun Deaths and Firearm-Related Homicides at an All-Time Low

The National Center for Health Statistics recently released data that shows in 2008, the number of per capita rate of accidental gun deaths fell to an all-time low.

According to the data, there were 592 firearm accident deaths (0.19 such accidents per 100,000 population) in 2008 compared with 613 firearm accident deaths (.20 per 100,000) in 2007.

Researchers also framed the data in terms of probability.  For Example, in 2008, “the chance of a child dying in a firearm accident was roughly one in a million.”

accidental gun death statistics 1981-2008 chart

It goes without saying that while this is good news, we can’t rest on our laurels or take comfort in low statistical probabilities.  We must continue to our best to safeguard against accidents and irresponsible behaviors.

When compared to all types of accidental deaths, guns came in well below other categories including motor vehicle accidents, falls, fires, poisonings, and other types of mishaps.  As a percentage of all accidental deaths, guns accounted for 0.5%.

Firearm suicides rose in 2008, but so did the total number of suicides.  Overall though, the percentage of suicides accounted for by the misuse of firearms has remained constant, at just barely over half.   More specifically, firearms accounted for approximately 6 of the 11 suicides per 100,000 people.

However, note this interesting comparison to Canada’s suicide rate per 100,000 people as depicted in this pie chart (from the CDC):

total suicides by method pie chart us vs canada 2000-2007

What’s apparent by this juxtaposition, and as the authors of Political Calculations pointed out, is that “the number of suicides a nation will experience in any given year is effectively independent of the use of firearms and any restrictions it has for firearms.”

In other words, the availability of firearms does not have any impact on the number of suicides in a given year.   People will find a way to kill themselves if they really want to.

Lastly, firearm homicides (including self-defense, but excluding lawful shootings by police) declined in 2008.  And more recent data reported by the FBI, indicates that criminal homicides declined in 2008, in 2009, and again in 2010, to a 47-year low.

us crime rate statistics 2009 chart

It would appear that crime is at its lowest point in the modern era, and in most states it’s easier to get a CCW permit than ever before.  Moreover, there are more guns in this country than ever before (approximately 270 million or more, amounting to 88 guns per 100 residents).

It honestly begs the question, why would one support legislation (gun control) that abrogates or infringes on the rights of law-abiding gun owners?

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