Gun Deaths: Meaningless Metric

You can get an average citizen to cross their eyes in brain damaging confusion by telling them that “gun deaths” is a meaningless statistic.

And it is, though members of the gun control industry continue to use the hollow phrase, and some members of the media never question its meaning or validity. It doesn’t stand up to domestic or international scrutiny. Since it is the job of the Gun Facts project to eradicate bad information, let’s spend a few electrons today killing off the “gun deaths” charade.

What in the heck is a “gun death”?

This is not a caustic question. In the realm of people dying by catching bullets, there are a number of categories concerning such deaths. And many of these categories are made up of sub categories. And for each of the categories, there are ways of achieving the same result (a dead person) without a using gun.

“Gun Death” Alternatives
Suicide Guns, razor blades, pills and booze, poison, rope, etc.
Homicides Guns, knives, poison, brute force, automobiles, etc.
– Justifiable Homicide Guns, knives, brute force, automobiles
Accidents A list too long to provide


A messy roster that gets scruffier still (more on that in a moment). The salient point is that if one says “there were 30,000 guns deaths in American last year” but doesn’t bother to note that nearly 2/3 of they were suicides, or that these “gun deaths” also include a rapidly shrinking number of accidents and a growing number of justifiable homicides, then one walks away misinformed.

Which is the likely intent.

So, let’s look at guns and deaths in well-off countries to provide perspective, because propagandists hate perspective.

The international suicide perspective

AVAILABILITY OF GUNS - International Suicide and Firearm Ownership RatesThe Gun Facts project has written extensively on guns and suicides (here, here, here and especially here). In all of our number crunching, we have yet to find a consistent relationship between availability of guns and the rate of suicides. There is, at least in America, an increased likelihood that a suicidal person will use a gun to end themselves, but cross-regional studies show that firearm availability does not predict suicide rates.

GUNS IN OTHER COUNTRIES suicide and gun suicide rates for oecd nationsNot to put too fine of a point on things, but among developed countries, the U.S. suicide rate is just slightly higher than average, despite our gun availability rate being many times higher.

NOTES: (a) we used the current list of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for our comparisons. (b) We omitted Turkey due to unavailability of some data.

The international perspective on homicides

Interestingly, the same disconnect between gun availability and gun deaths applies to homicides.

GUNS IN OTHER COUNTRIES total homicide and gun homicide rates in oecd countriesThough the United States does have a relatively high homicide rate compared to other OEDC nations, three other countries are within one standard deviation of the U.S. Those countries have between 1/5th and 1/10th the number of guns per capita that the United States, yet residents there find alternatives for committing and equal rate of murders.

As we see in the chart above, one must take into account not only things like suicides and justifiable homicides, but they must also evaluate if the absence of guns helps to facilitate murder by other means (as we noted in our “Worldly Women blog post, women in strict gun control countries are more likely to be murdered as measured by the ratio of men murdered to women murdered).

This then begs a very provocative question; what does the homicide rates per number of guns look like? After all, we see that (a) guns are not a determinant variable in suicide rates, and apparently lack solid correlation in homicides. Homicide rates measure the odds of any person being killed, but what are the odds of a gun killing someone?

GUNS IN OTHER COUNTRIES gun homicides by number of gun in oecd countriesApparently, the odds are weak. In terms of a gun being used to commit a homicide, America is below OECD averages, or a little above if we drop Mexico from the list (do keep in mind that Mexico has very strict gun control laws).

Let us lay to rest …

… the term “gun deaths”. Dismiss it from your vocabulary, and challenge anyone who absentmindedly parrots the term. For the later, simply ask them “Which form of gun deaths are you talking about?” or “Is that on a per person or per gun basis?” I wager they don’t know the difference and by such mild shaming you can get them to quit using the term too.


Gun Deaths: Meaningless Metric — 7 Comments

  1. Can you please get this posted on the front page of every newspaper and every news channel on the internet so it might sink in on the weak minded population of this country that continue to believe what is fed to them by the biased media and our elected officials.

  2. Do you have the news clip with Hillary standing before a table full of guns confiscated from crimes in Mexico that came from US gun shops – that we only later discovered were pushed to Mexico under Operation Fast & Furious? Many people have never heard of Fast and Furious – except the movie.

    Thank you.

  3. Here’s how I respond to people who yammer about “gun deaths.”

    While “gun deaths” in the US claim 30,000 per year, “hospital deaths” claim over 400,000:

    We could immediately prevent all “hospital deaths” by closing all hospitals.

    Yes, you’re right, that’s stupid, because hospitals presumably save more people than they kill.

    And yet so do guns: 500,000 to 3 million defensive uses per year, compared to 30,000 “gun deaths,” most of which were voluntary (suicides) to begin with.

    And these aren’t “NRA numbers,” they’re from a CDC study commissioned by Barack Obama:

  4. What about a follow up as to the term “gun violence” being meaningless as well? As violence is at times necessary to stop a criminal.

    • Perhaps some day. A bit trickier of a topic since the official statistics are not as straight forward.

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