The ugly truth and I see no appropriately named raging grannies or mad mothers to stop the scourge of gun violence. The same groups that run amok about many victimless crimes are oddly silent when it comes to gun deaths.
The truth is that the acronym group with the big guns and the big money, the NRA, run the legislators and the Congress. While the CDC and the NHTSA were busy working on ways to stop drunken and drugged driving they ignored texting, they ignored the exhausted long distance drivers, the problems with our infrastructure and of course the vehicular problems to make sure that no booze touched the lips of those behind the wheel. And we have of course the histronics about human trafficking and sex offenses that are nowhere near the level of gun violence.
I have very vested interests in the safety of all Americans but this is a public health crisis and a large economic one as well as the costs to treat, to secure, to monitor and to heal these scenes of violence are decades long and billions of dollars better spent elsewhere.
Guns are now killing as many people as cars in the U.S.
released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2014, the age-adjusted death rate for both firearms (including homicides, suicides and accidental deaths) and motor vehicle events (car crashes, collisions between cars and pedestrians, etc) stood at 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people.
The convergence of the trend lines above is driven primarily by a sharp drop in the rate of motor vehicle fatalities since 1950. In the late 1960s, for instance, there were well over 25 motor vehicle deaths for every 100,000 people in the United States. Since then, that rate has fallen by more than half.
Over the same period, gun deaths rose, but by a considerably smaller amount. Gun homicide rates have actually fallen in recent years, but those gains have been offset by rising gun suicide rates. Today, suicides account for roughly two out of every three gun deaths.
One way of illustrating the shift in gun and auto deaths is to look at state-level data. In 20o5, gun deaths outnumbered vehicle deaths in just two states, Alaska and Maryland, plus the District of Columbia. By 2014, gun deaths were greater in 21 states plus D.C.
The steady decline in motor vehicle deaths over the past 65 years can be attributed to a combination of improved technology and smarter regulation. The federal government mandated the presence of seat belts in the 1960s. The '70s brought anti-lock brakes. The '80s brought an increased focus on drunk driving and mandatory seat belt use. Airbags came along in the '90s. More recent years have seen mandates on electronic stability systems, increased penalties for distracted driving and forthcoming requirements for rear-view cameras.
The result has been safer cars, safer roads, better drivers and a decades-long decline in motor vehicle fatalities, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
By contrast, the history of American gun control regulation has been more erratic. Restrictions passed in earlier eras, such as the assault weapons ban, have been undone recently. During the George W. Bush administration, Congress passed laws that prohibited law enforcement from publicizing data showing where criminals obtained their guns and granted gunmakers immunity from some civil lawsuits.
Technological advances, like smart-gun technology that prevents people other than the owner from firing a gun, have been stymied by opposition from the National Rifle Association and from many gun owners. Modest regulatory changes, including universal background checks, enjoy overwhelming support from gun owners and the American public. But those, too, have been thwarted under pressure from gun-rights advocates and the NRA.
The result? A gun mortality rate that's slightly higher than where it stood 50 years ago. Particularly vexing is that there may be ways to improve gun safety and reduce firearm deaths -- particularly suicides -- that haven't even been thought of yet. But innovations in gun safety are hard to come by, in large part because of Congress's longstanding ban on many types of federal gun research.
The ban has a chilling effect not only on federal agencies like the CDC but also on academic researchers, such as Harvard's David Hemenway. One well-known researcher, Garen Wintemute of the University of California at Davis, had to donate $1 million of his own money to keep his research going.
Firearms kill roughly 30,000 people a year. But Wintemute estimates that there are only a dozen full-time gun violence researchers in the United States. “There’s so many things we’d like to do,”
Gun deaths and vehicle deaths are in many ways two different problems. Gun deaths are typically intentional -- people deliberately kill either themselves or someone else. Motor vehicle deaths, by contrast, are usually accidental. And cars are much more complicated machines than guns, with a lot more components and systems to iterate and improve upon.
Still, we've been able to make driving much safer thanks to a combination of smart regulation technological innovation. We could potentially do the same with guns.