Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Guns, Booze, and Automobiles

A comment I often hear from gun advocates is a variant of "Why don't we restrict access to cars and alcohol, as they get a lot of innocent people killed as well?".

This is actually a good argument, qualititatively. Where it breaks down is quantitatively. In other words, the numbers just don't add up. I have posted the wonky details here, but what I have calculated or discovered is that:

Americans make 233 automobile trips per year, killing approximately 21500 third parties, or 10.7 million trips per third party fatality.

Americans drink approximately 28 billion times per year, killing approximately 7400 third parties, or 3.7 million drinking events per third party fatality.

Americans use long guns (rifles, shotguns, etc) approximately 840 million times per year, resulting in 950 third party fatalities, or one fatality per 1.15 million uses.

Americans use handguns approximately 500 million times per year, resulting in over 7600 third party fatalities, or about one fatality per 67,000 uses.

It is very clear what item stands out here: handguns. Long guns seem to be only marginally more dangerous than drinking or driving, and probably safer than drinking AND driving. However, handguns are in a league of their own, with well over a hundred times the third party fatalities per use as automobiles and around fifty times the fatalities per use as alcohol. This is why they are not remotely compariable, and why is it perfectly reasonable to call for the abolition of handguns, but not necessarily long guns.