Friday, June 20, 2014

Gun violence in the US, Part 3: some surprises, some confirmations, some questions

Surprises that I learned about gun violence in the US:

More people die of firearm related suicides than firearm related homicides.  In fact, when indiscriminately people discuss "firearm related deaths", those usually include suicides.

Rifles and assault weapons are not responsible for even 20% of firearm related deaths. Firearm related deaths are primarily the result of handguns.

The Assault Weapons Ban of 1994--the last major piece federal legislation of gun control--did not address handgun violence.  If I was a 2ndA activist, this would piss me off, as it would seem completely superfluous to any problem of gun violence.

The majority of the victims of firearm related homicide violence are black males, between the ages of 18-30.  The majority of the firearm related suicides are white males (source, Washington Post).  The rates between homicide and suicide are relatively close, although they vary from year to year.

According to this chart, there are more homicides than suicides, gun-related.  

Not a surprise:
The NRA is not concerned about firearm related suicides.

Are more men the victims of firearm related suicides? 


  1. First, thank you for making the distinction between suicides and homicides. As you said, it's a distinction many make to (I assume purposefully) muddy the waters.

    Second, while your stat on "rifles and assault weapons" is technically correct, I think a more correct way to say it would be "the homicide rate where cause of death was by rifle (to include so-called "assault rifles") is less than 3%, which is lower than that for edged weapons, or even hands, fists, and feet." Really, my question is "why did you pick 20%, which is still quite almost seven times higher than the actual figure?"

    Third, the '94 AWB did affect handguns, in that magazines with a capacity of greater than 10 rounds were prohibited, but your underlying point of anti-gunners going for perceived low-hanging fruit remains valid.

    In your comment about the NRA not caring about suicides, you are assuming the availability of firearms appreciably affects *overall* suicide rates. Without doing a lot of research, I can think of two studies off-hand that did not find any correlation between the two. The first is from the Journal of the American Medical Association ( The second looks at the Australian gun ban of 1996 and finds "that the only category of sudden death that may have been influenced by the introduction of the NFA was firearm suicide." ( As there appears to be no statistically significant change in overall firearm rate, I must ask, "Does it really matter the method one uses to commit suicide? Why is one acceptable and one an offense to those against the right of people to bear arms?

  2. Thanks for your comments. I looked at the JAMA article and found it interesting, but also concerning. The research only concerns the period from 1987 to 1997, and so has little basis for judgment, as the AWB had only been in effect for 3 years. That is hardly ground for much conclusion. Moreover, the conclusions there seem quite debateable. It did mark a decrease in fire-arm related suicides in a certain age group. Moreover, if you look at the visual charts, they seem to suggest trends of decrease. But the study's authors claim those trends are not statistically meaningful.


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