Saturday, August 8, 2009

What caused the 90s reduction in gun deaths? - Part 3

For Part 1 and Part 2, I focused on gun deaths and whether the Brady Bill and AWB caused a reduction. As with other researchers, I found no evidence to support it. Now, let me look at injuries some. Unfortunately, WISQARS only has data back to 2000 for injuries so the major portion I want to look at (1990-2000) is not available. But I'll see what I can find from the data anyway.

Remember, the stock of available firearms in the US has steadily increased every year. First assault related injuries:
Over this short time period, injuries from firearms have increased by about 10%. That brings up the first question. Does this show that firearms are being used more? Not necessarily. If we saw increasing injuries and decreasing fatalities, that would be an possible indication of better medical care. In this case, we are seeing an slight increase in both injuries and fatalities. So we could chalk this up as evidence of more guns=more gun homicides and gun assault injuries. The other three methods I looked at show a declining trend. Cut/pierce injuries have decreased by more than 30 percent. When looking back at the fatalities from cut/pierce, they haven't declined. So this would indicate we have less instances of people attacking others with a knife and more of those attacks result in death rather than injury.

Let's move on to attempted suicides:
Besides the last year of data, firearm attempted suicides have remained steady. The CDC denotes that the last year of data is "unstable." This means the sample size was much smaller than the others and could be an indication that the number is incorrect. Another interesting thing is that struck by/against has more than tripled in 6 years as the method of attempts. Personally, I think this probably has more to do with how something was classified. Finally attempts by cut/pierce had an initial increase and then a slight decrease the last couple of years. Important point here is the magnitude. About 20 times the number of self-harm cuts as their are firearm wounds.

Finally, accidents:
Besides falls, all are showing a decreasing trend, even falls are remaining level. Firearms have actually shown the largest decrease (even with the uptick in the last year). So firearms per person are increasing in the US, and firearm accidental injuries have decreased. Major point of this graph though is the scale. Firearms uses the right scale, the others use the left. Injuries from cuts are 100 times more likely than firearms. Injuries from being struck by something are 300 times more likely, and injuries from falling are 500 times more likely. Five Hundred Times!!!

So which is more dangerous? I use a knife (including butter knifes) or other sharp object on average 20 times a day (that is counting every slice of bread as one instance). That is roughly 7000 times a year. I easily shoot 7000 rounds of ammunition a year. So I think they are comparable on a per use basis. In this case, I would have to limit my knife, pointy object use to 1 time every 5 days (70 times a year) to decrease the chance of injuring myself to the same as I have while shooting 7000 rounds of ammunition. My wife wouldn't be happy about that. She doesn't like to slice bread.

I wore a pedometer once and found out that I take about 4000 steps a day. Let me count each and every step as a potential falling injury. Compare this to an average of 20 rounds of ammunition used each day. Since falling injuries are 500 times more likely than firearm injuries, I would have to cut back my walking by 60% to have it equal the chance of being injured by a firearm. In other words, my shooting hobby (which is completely optional) is 2.5 times safer than my walking (which is necessary). Maybe I should quick walking entirely and just sit and shoot all day? That has some possibilities (again, don't think my wife would go for this, because she would get tired of carrying me everywhere).

In summary, the only firearm law that changed during this time was the expiration of the Assault Weapon Ban. As I said before, the AWB did not ban a single firearm already in the US. Not only that, it didn't affect the production of the number firearms. So what is the mechanism that the re-newed ability to add a bayonet lug or WWII era grenade launcher (which you can't even get the grenades for - because they are no longer manufactured!) may have caused the slight increases we have seen in some (not all) categories of firearm deaths and injuries? I don't know, and that would be kind of hard to explain.

And the finale in Part IV.


  1. Well, I think you have blown my paltry little graph right out of the water... I will definitely be linking back to this once you get all four segments up :).