Logical Fallacies: Nearly 30,000 people per year die as a result of gun violence in the United States

Most recently I saw this line parroted by Jesse Jackson in an op-ed “piece” he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times, but I’ve been seeing and hearing this talking point for at least 10 years now.

Let me just get this out of the way: the 30,000/year number is complete crap.

I have no idea where they get these numbers, but I know where I can get some accurate numbers. Let’s take a quick look at Expanded Homicide Data Table 8 from the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2010 shall we?

Here’s the data for 2010:

Total Homicides – 12,996, Total firearm homicides – 8,775

…and for 2009:

Total Homicides – 13,752, Total firearm homicides – 9,199

…and for 2008:

Total Homicides – 14,224, Total firearm homicides – 9,528

…and for 2007:

Total Homicides – 14,916, Total firearm homicides -10,129

…and for 2006:

Total Homicides – 15,087, Total firearm homicides -10,225

And in chart form:

If we take a quick peek at Expanded Homicide Data Table 7 from the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2005, we see:

2005

Total Homicides – 14,860, Total firearm homicides – 10,100

2004

Total Homicides – 14,210, Total firearm homicides – 9,385

2003

Total Homicides – 14,465, Total firearm homicides – 9,659

2002

Total Homicides – 14,263, Total firearm homicides – 9,528

2001

Total Homicides – 14,061, Total firearm homicides – 8,890

And in chart form:

Interesting, so in the last ten years, there has not been a single year when the total number of people murdered in the US was more than 15,087. That’s about half of what the anti’s are claiming, and that’s the sum total of all homicides in the US. One important thing to note here is that I am only looking at homicides. I am not counting suicides (which to be blunt, I couldn’t care less about. If someone is gonna off themselves they’re gonna use whatever is at hand, just look at the suicide rate in Japan where guns are completely banned), or accidental deaths. This is consistent with the “gun violence” part of the statement, accidents and suicide are not violence.

When we look at only firearm homicides, there has not been a single year since at least 2001 when the total was higher than 10,225; just a hair over 1/3 the number quoted so often by the anti’s.

What’s even more interesting is when you look at the age groups. We hear all the time how many “children” are gunned down in the US. In 2010, there were 632 people under the age of 18 killed with firearms.

Now, not included in the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics for Homicides are the following:

I find it fascinating how easily one can find accurate data to backup or debunk statistics online.

So I just have to wonder, where are these people getting the 30,000 number?

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3 Responses to Logical Fallacies: Nearly 30,000 people per year die as a result of gun violence in the United States

  1. OldRemington says:

    OP, your article was linked to reddit.com/r/guns via http://redd.it/mn2gp

    I just wanted to point out that you’re wrong in your understanding of the Brady Campaign’s wording. They aren’t saying that 30k people are being murdered every year. They’re saying that 30k people are “dying as a result of gun violence.” Now, the word violence is key. Because they’re counting suicides, which make up more than 50% of the 30k.

    If you’re a fan of guns, you’d logically say “well, someone taking their own life shouldn’t be counted as gun violence, because they chose to do it, and would have killed themself regardless.” You may also talk about how Japan has much higher suicide rates than we do in the US, yet handguns are next to impossible to get over there.

    However, if you’re anti-gun, then you want to make the “gun deaths” number as big and scary as possible, so they’re going to count suicide as gun violence.

    Anyway, it’s all spelled out quite nicely here: http://www.bradycampaign.org/xshare/Facts/Gun_Death_and_Injury_Stat_Sheet_2008__2009_FINAL.pdf (PDF Warning)

    tl;dr: You’re wrong, Brady’s numbers are legit, but they’re being liberal with their definition of “violence.”

    • Joe G. says:

      @OldRemington,

      Thanks for the link to that. Just because they have a list of figures does not make their numbers “legit”, especially after seeing that they are counting 18,000+ suicides as violence (suicide is not violence). And come to think of it, that doesn’t make me wrong either.

      At best they are being intentionally misleading with their numbers (and on that topic, since when are “children” defined as 19 and younger?).

      • OldRemington says:

        I agree that the numbers are misleading. This is something I learned a year or so back, and have argued with everyone that’s ever used the 30k number, however, it’s not a lie. Like I said before, it depends on your definition of violence.

        I would say Jacketed Hollow Point traveling at 1,000+ feet per second is going to have a violent reaction with skin/skull/brain matter. However, I wouldn’t count the 18k+ suicides as “gun violence.”

        Clearly they’re trying to create a “murder” scare by using those numbers, but they aren’t actually saying “murdered.”

        I would say a stronger defense against their argument is not to say “well, the most homicides in a year we’ve had in the last X years is 15k,” but rather dispute whether or not our suicide numbers would be so high were it not for the easy availablity of handguns.

        From looking at Japan, that has high suicide low handgun ownership, it’s obvious that availability of guns are not correlating with suicide rate.

        Also, I agree with you that 18/19 should not be counted as children, since you can be deployed (you can enlist at 17, but cannot be deployed) and if you’re killed overseas by small arm fire, that shouldn’t be counted as an “American child dying by gun violence.”

        “I have no idea where they get these numbers, but I know where I can get some accurate numbers.”

        Well, now you know, AND KNOWLEDGE IS HALF THE BATTLE!

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