A Facebook friend recently posted a meme that suggested people who want gun control are afraid of guns, and that fear is irrational if they aren’t also afraid of cars.
“I’m afraid of guns!”
“They can kill you!”
“So why aren’t you afraid of your car?”
“Because I learned how to drive it.”
I have to be honest – I am afraid of cars, actually. I have this habit of looking both ways before I cross streets, and I try not to put myself in their path, for example by typically not crossing highways on foot. But of course, even if it were accurate, the way this little meme frames the idea is deeply flawed. It suggests an equivalency that isn’t close to true. Because guns are a lot scarier than cars, and deserve to be. Even if you’ve learned how to fire one (which I have, by the way. On a firing range or skeet shooting course, guns are fun).
When a car is operated correctly, nobody is injured. When a gun is operated correctly, someone often dies. And the data bears this out: guns are 28 times more injury prone per incident than cars, and 98 times more fatal. [See below for the data.]
There are some useful analogies to cars, though. All drivers are required to take a lengthy driving course, pass a proficiency test, have a current license, and carry insurance. All automobiles are individually registered, in most states are subject to periodic inspection, and must be individually insured. So I have decided what my current (achievable) gun policy position is: guns should be subject to the same standards. Just that. Every weapon (without exception) must be registered, licensed, and insured sufficient to compensate for any injury caused. Every gun owner must take a lengthy firearm safety course, pass a proficiency test, have a license, and carry specific and individual insurance. (Thanks to Mark David for providing a well written article with the same basic conclusion.)
…you think the insurance companies won’t start imposing safety standards?
Here’s the raw data I used:
The most recent NHTS data is from 2009. In the US in 2009, there were 210.8 million automobiles, making 392,023 million (0.4 trillion) trips covering 3,732,791 million miles (3.7 trillion). In 2010, there were approximately 5.4 million crashes, injuring 2.2 million people and killing 32,999. This means that the odds of crashing per trip were 0.0014%, the odds of injury were 0.0006%, and the odds of death were 0.0000082%.
There are 300 million guns in the US, owned by about a third of the population. It’s difficult to know how many times they are fired. I’m going to assume that each gun owner on average fires their gun once a week (I figure some do a lot more than that, but hunters probably only fire their gun a few times a year). There are 245.3 million people in the US; a third of them would make 81 million, and at a trip to the gunrange a week, that makes 4,209 million discharges a year. In 2013, there were 73,505 nonfatal firearm injuries and 33,636 deaths due to “injury by firearms.” So the odds of injury per discharge are 0.0017% and the odds of death are 0.0008%.
Anybody want to suggest a better metric for gun risk?
…and some Google searches.