Misleading on Gun Statistics

The often-cited figure from 2013 of 33,000 deaths by firearms (it’s actually 33,636) in the United States seems misleading to me when its presented, as it was by New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, this way, “What’s disgusting is 33,000 gun deaths each year in the US, and no serious effort to curb the toll,” where he then links to his column which parenthetically mentions “suicides, murders and accidents,” without any parsing of how much suicide contributes to that 33,636 number, along with eight recommendations to curb gun violence that also have nothing to do with addressing suicide.

For the record, it’s around 20,000 suicides by gun (an additional 20,000 or so by other means) and usually between 10,000-11,000 attributable to gun homicide. The rest are accidents, shootings by police or unknown.

Unless the idea is a total gun ban, it seems intentionally misleading to lump all those gun deaths together. And even a total gun ban doesn’t seem likely to curb the suicide problem, see: Japan; while they don’t have nearly the gun violence we do, their suicide problem is even worse.

I care very much about the mental health issue and it seems problematic to me to not be precise in our language and wielding of statistics when discussing this issue. In other words, it almost seems like the “suicide problem” becomes a sidebar (even though it’s not) to make a misleading point about gun violence.

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