Guns don’t kill people, innumeracy does

I was presented a paper by a staunch gun rights activist yesterday, a study if you will. In it, he said, are the numbers that support his views and his views are that a world is a better place when people legally own guns. Lots of them.

Now, I don’t care much about guns, I have to admit, but I do love me some numbers. I mean, I really love numbers.

When I was a kid, I used to drive my parents mad by counting everything. So, not only did they already know that they probably smoke too much, they had a seven year old tell them how much money they will spend on the 10,429 cigarettes I projected them to smoke during a year. A real darling I was.

Not much has changed since. When stuck in the boring presentation, like yearly failure rates for the fifty-odd instruments I don’t even develop, I take solace in the sea of numbers. I’ll pick a column and pretend  the never-ending streams of digits are my seasonal ERA, or WHIP, or HR or whatever the numbers will be most likely to resemble and then I’ll calculate how I stack up against the rest of the just invented league. I’ve made an All-Star team a few times, I’m happy to inform you.

So, I’m strange like that, but you either knew that already or you don’t care about it. You want to know about the guns.

Here is the paper in question. Now, you may say that someone who is in the business of selling firearms equipment might not hold the most unpartizan of opinions when it comes to what should be done with the guns, but that is besides the point. All the questionable narrative aside, they do use a whole lots of numbers to bring their point across. So, let’s look at them numbers.

The central stat that they present is the frequency of the criminal attacks stopped by guns. Mind you, the statistics are from 1995, but that doesn’t really matter for this exercise. We have two contradictory statements to start with:

 Every 1.3 minutes an American citizen uses a firearm in self-defense against a criminal.

Among 15.7% of self-defenders interviewed nationwide during The National Self-Defense Survey conducted by Florida State University criminologists in 1994, the defender believed that someone “almost certainly” would have died had the gun not been used for protection — a life saved by a privately owned gun about once every 1.3 minutes. (In another 14.2% cases, the defender believed someone “probably” would have died if the gun hadn’t been used in defense.)

So, we know that roughly one out of every six successful defenses (15.7%) of armed citizens against criminals results in a life saved. What is a little bit unclear is which event occurs every 1.3 minutes. Is it any such defense or a defense that results in a saved life?

Let’s do some math. Something that occurs once every 1.3 minutes will occur just about 400,000 times in a year. There are two possibilities of what was meant:

1) There are 400,000 such incidents every year and just over 60,000 of those actually resulted in a saved life
2) There are about 2,500,000 such incidents every year and some 400,000 of those actually resulted in a saved life

Luckily, any ambiguity about what is really meant is solved later on in that study:

Moreover, according to the latest studies, firearms are used more than two million times each year by law abiding citizens to defend themselves and their loved ones from vicious criminals.

So, now we clearly know that every year almost half a million American lives are saved thanks to privately owned guns, frankly, making any possible counterargument from gun control crowd pale in comparison. Even though some of the attacked might have been scared and slightly exaggerated the extent of the life-threatening situation, it is fair to assume that some of the successful defenses saved multiple lives. And that is not even counting the situations where a life has been probably saved.

My first reaction is – whoa, that’s a lot of lives. I mean, really, really lot of lives. If the trend continued, there were some seven million lives saved from the time this study was conducted till today. That is by far more than the entire population of my country. If guns are like penicillin, why was nobody awarded a Nobel, either for medicine or for peace?

I guess the reason is that we don’t really take notice of this extraordinary fact, because media doesn’t report on it.

In 64.2% of these self-defense cases, the police learned of the defense, which means that the media could also find out and report on them if they chose to.

So, although more than a million and a half such attacks are reported to police every year, we know next to nothing about them because media covers it up. That sounds scary, doesn’t it?

But not so scary as this. Roughly the half of all Americans either legally own a gun or can get a hold of one when attacked, like when there is a gun in a household owned by someone else. This, by simple math, means that the other half of the citizens are unarmed. One of the points the gun right activists like to stress is that guns not only help to thwart the attacks, but also to prevent them from happening. You’ve heard it, I have an NRA sticker on my car, on my fence and on my porch – you’ve been warned, punk!

So, the unarmed citizens are as numerous as the armed ones and even more likely to be attacked. Unless we assume that they face criminals with different brand of viciousness, they too are faced with over two million attacks every year and 15.7% of those (400,000) are of the variety where they almost certainly die if they don’t have a firearm for protection. And here is the bad part. They don’t. So they die.

Now, covering up seven millions lives that were saved since 1995 is one thing, but how come we never hear of the seven million lives that were actually lost?! Who is in on that cover up?

For one, it’s the government. Year after year they publish the cause of death statistics that show homicides account for some 15,000 – 20,000 annual deaths in the US all together. And that number also includes criminals shooting criminals, law-abiding husbands beating their law-abiding wives to death and evil grandchildren poisoning their poor grandmothers to get their dirty little hands on the inheritance. Yet, no mention of the 400,000 victims of vicious criminals, probably not to ashame their families by admitting to having relatives who were too stupid to own a gun. And every 1.3 minutes The Government And The Media engage in a Minitrue masterpiece of historical revisionism, erasing any shred of evidence that the victim ever existed, much less had a violent end to her or his life.

I mean, seriously, how stupid do you think we are?

It takes about two minutes of one’s time and elementary school skills in both reading and math to realize that this so called “study”  is a big load of crap. Yet here we are, almost twenty years later and people still use that garbage as an argument.


Well, the biggest reason is that they can get away with it. And they can get away with it because getting “educated” by learning to repeat ideological dogmas instead of being educated in a way that will teach critical thinking and using ones own brain, is en vogue. Which, by the way, is not a musical quartet from Oakland. And as soon as people allow to be fed any kind of agenda without questioning whether it is right or wrong, they lose. With guns or without them, they are a victim of a violent crime. And there is a good chance that such crime really does happen every 1.3 seconds.

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