In it for the Money: Running Gun Numbers

Deaths, accidents and the National Rifle Association

Editor’s note: Nelson’s “In it for the Money” opinion column appears regularly in The Chronicle, roughly around the third Wednesday of the month. FYI, Nelson has written a piece for The Magazine about a device to adapt a digital camera to pinhole technology, called Light Motif – possibly of interest to Chronicle readers.

David Erik Nelson Column

David Erik Nelson

Thanks for returning for this second installment of Dave Not Really Taking a Meaningful Position on Gun Control. As you’ll recall, last month we talked about What Guns Are and Aren’t [1].

This month, we’re just going to talk numbers, because if you get your vision of the world from the daily news, then your impression is probably something like: (a) Guns kill maybe three dozen people per day, mostly in murders (many of which are committed by cops in the line of duty); (b) Lots of little kids find guns, play with them, and get killed; (c) Gun injuries aren’t that common; these things basically kill you or don’t, and most injuries are accidents [2]; and (d) NRA is a deservedly powerful voice in the national conversation about guns and gun control.

All of that is wrong.

I fully acknowledge that the fourth point has some aspects of opinion to it; the first three do not. These first three are demonstrably incorrect.

Just to get the punchline out of the way, in America: (a) Guns actually kill 86 people per day, and only about a third of those are murders; (b) A very small percentage of gun accident victims are kids; (c) Gun injuries are more than twice as frequent as deaths; and (d) NRA doesn’t have enough members to warrant the influence they wield.

Gun Numbers

Starting in December 2012 I got super cozy with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website [3].

U.S. Gun Deaths: 2010

U.S. Gun Deaths: 2010

Here is the numerical breakdown of gun-related casualties in the U.S. for 2010 (the most recent year for which complete figures are available).

In 2010 104,914 people in the United States of America were injured or killed by flying lead exiting the barrels of guns. Of these, 31,409 people died; 73,505 did not.

Of the 31,409 deaths in 2010, 19,392 were suicides. That number should sicken and sadden any reader with even just half a heart. Firearm suicide was the number one cause of violent deaths for men in 2010, putting 16,960 of them in caskets [4].

Suicide by gun is a method overwhelmingly favored by men, and at which they absolutely excel [5]. All told, we’re losing 20,000 of our brothers and sisters per year to suicides by gun. Self-destruction by firearm constitutes roughly two-thirds of total gun deaths in a given year.

Next up are homicides, which numbered 11,067 men, women, and children. This doesn’t include lawful actions taken by law enforcement during the course of enforcing the law; those are coded as “legal intervention” [6] deaths, and there were just 344 of them in the U.S. in 2010. So, regardless of how common it is on the nightly news and YouTube videos, the police account for just 1% of all firearm-related deaths and injuries in a given year.

U.S. Gun Injuries: 2010

U.S. Gun Injuries: 2010

Finally, there are gun accidents. Watch the news and you already know what these are: Junior finds an ill-secured gun in the lettuce drawer and drills a hole in Buddy. But that’s actually very rare.

There were only 606 firearm-related accidental deaths in 2010 (so called “Unintentional Firearm” injuries, in CDC lingo). Just 36 of these deaths involved children under 12. The bulk of these accidents befell folks 15 to 44 [7].

A total of 73,505 people were non-fatally injured by gun-actuated lead in 2010.

Of those 73,505 injuries, 4,643 were attempted suicides. To reiterate, firearm suicides are abnormally successful.

Of the 73,505 injuries, 14,161 were non-fatal accidents that, as was the case with the fatal accidents, disproportionately befell the adult-ish [8].

And 963 were injuries during the course of “legal intervention.” (Another lesson: the cops are pretty good at not killing people).

Finally, the lion’s share of injuries, 53,738, were part of an assault.


I’m nominally a “journalist,” and so I have an almost overwhelming urge to begin this section with “Now, there are two ways to see these numbers …”

But, the thing is, there aren’t. There is one way to see these numbers – as numbers.

    • 73,505 people injured
    • 31,409 dead
    • 73% of the injuries were acts of malice
    • 97% of the deaths were acts of malice

Someone with ill-intent took hold of an instrument and started singing the special little dark song that was echoing in the chambers of his or her heart; that’s how this lead got into these bodies. They did this in cold blood and sweating with the heat of the moment, they did it while mentally ill and while of sound mind, they sang their special little song to strangers and friends and family and lovers and, mostly, to themselves. These injuries weren’t mostly accidents, or mostly kids, or mostly cops. It was people setting out to hurt people, and succeeding.

There is an urge to compare these numbers, so let’s compare.

U.S. Automobile Injuries: 2010

U.S. Automobile Injuries: 2010

Here’s a favorite Glib Gun Lover comparison: There are roughly as many cars in America as guns [9], and there were 2,771,497 motor vehicle occupant injuries in 2010, and 33,687 deaths for a total of 2,805,184 American motor vehicle casualties. Cars are 27 times more dangerous than guns!

But, the thing is, of those 2,771,497 automotive injuries, only 8,954 were acts of malice or sorrow, and only 1,789 were attempts at suicide [10].

Check the pie charts: Orange represents blameless accidents; red and blue (and green) represent active human efforts to inflict pain or suffering. We’d have included a pie chart of Automobile Deaths, but it would have just been an orange circle.

In other words, those 2.8 million car accidents were basically just that: accidents. Those 33,000 corpses on the highway were largely the result of bad decision-making and bad weather, bad maintenance and bad luck. Meanwhile, our 30,000 gun deaths weren’t accidents – sorry, 4% were accidents. The rest were acts. They were deliberate expressions of hate and sorrow and frustration and desperation. That should mean something to us as human beings.

And, pardon me for saying so, it should mean something to the people who profit from selling the products without which these injuries could not have occurred. I note that the auto industry is constantly working to make sure there is less blood on the road. Car companies build safer cars, more numerous air bags, better seat belts; they support MADD and SADD and ever tougher laws against drunk driving; they support harsher punishments for bad actors at every level – those who behave recklessly and cause death and chaos on our highways and byways.

Now, then, when it comes to the gun industry …

NRA Numbers

Personally, I believe the NRA is terribly distorting the “gun control debate” in this country. I believe the NRA has made a concerted effort to drive gun and ammo sales over the last five years by conjuring the specter of a sinister Negro President hell-bent on confiscating legally owned guns – even as that same president, in his first month in office, overturned a decades-old ban on carrying firearms in National Parks. (That was just the first move amid so much notable inaction that his policies amounted to a loosening of gun control.)

Personally, I find statements and publications from the NRA to be twisted and loathsome in the extreme, often amounting to little more than borderline-racist dog-whistling. Personally, I think the NRA is nothing more than an extremely wily PR firm that doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about human blood and suffering as long as there is still more money to be made encouraging ever fewer Americans to stockpile ever more guns and ammo.

But I don’t object to their participation in the national gun “debate” because I believe them to be detestable hate-mongers and heartless death profiteers. I object because they don’t represent the actual interests of a meaningful portion of our citizenry.

The NRA has fewer than 4 million members [11]. That’s not a lot of citizens. They are dwarfed by such notable voting blocks as: illegal drug users (of which we have almost 23 million in the U.S.); Michiganders (9.9 million voters no-one in DC seems to care about); and dogs (there are 78 million belovéd mutts in this great nation).

Fact: No politician in American history has ever said: “I’m sorry; I would love to support stricter drug laws, but the illegal drug user lobby is a powerful group, and I can’t afford to lose their votes” – even though there are at least five times as many pill-popping daddies and paisley-clad Mary Janes in this country than there are NRA Freedom Fighters.

Since the Newtown Mass Murder Using Guns, I’ve spoken to several traditionally staunch NRA supporters who’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with lending their support. On the one hand, they feel that the NRA is the only group out there defending “gun rights” (whatever that’s supposed to mean, in a nation where there are clearly plenty of guns to go around and no way to even track them down, let alone take them away). On the other hand, these same NRA supporters find their once-beloved NRA to increasingly sound like “a sack of dicks” – an assessment already shared by the vast number of Americans (maybe around 130 million?) who own guns, yet would never consider sending a penny to the NRA.

A lobby should be powerful because it represents a lot of votes, not because it represents a lot of dollars.

And there’s the point: Not only is the NRA a minuscule sub-portion of the population, the organization doesn’t even represent more than 3% of the nation’s gun owners. NRA members are nothing more than a splinter of a minority of the nation, and they presume to speak for all of us – and we, for unknowable reasons, just let them.

As an aside to my gun-owning co-citizens: The NRA may constitute the loudest assholes in the room, but we quiet assholes – who keep our guns under lock and key and teach our children well – are kinda-sorta the biggest assholes. We’re the biggest assholes because we’re not speaking up on our own behalf on the side of honesty and rationality and fair-play in political discourse. Just sayin’ …

In the end, this isn’t about guns or “gun control,” this is about numbers: The NRA has worked for almost two decades to make it as hard as possible for you and your elected representatives to see these numbers in an organized, meaningful way. They’ve poured countless millions of dollars into making it as hard as possible for you to make your own decisions about what gun policy might make sense.

Twenty mostly pink-colored children were murdered-via-firearm in December in Connecticut, and the NRA said “Let’s put more guns in schools.” Last year in Chicago, 440 mostly dark-skinned children were gunned down, and the NRA decried closing the gun show loophole [12]. That loophole has been instrumental in illegally moving handguns into a city with some of the toughest legal gun restrictions in the nation. Something on the order of 30,000 of our friends, neighbors, and family members will kill themselves or one another with guns this year, but the NRA wants you to worry that my dad and I had to fill out a one page application and a couple little cards so he could give me his Browning pistol as a gift.

I’m sorry, NRA, but maybe we’ve got slightly bigger problems. We’ve got some numbers to discuss, and it’s kinda hard to do that with your hysterical bullshit drowning out the conversation.

[1] tl;dr: They aren’t tools for solving problems; they are instruments of self-expression, for better or worse.
[2] I put this in there because I feel that a lack of reporting on the large number of gun injuries in the U.S. buttresses the erroneous belief that guns are problem-solving tools requiring little training or practice to be effective. Lots of folks try to kill each other with bullets and succeed only in maiming each other, because Guns Aren’t Tools.

[3] Specifically Leading Causes of Death Reports and Nonfatal Injury Reports. These sections of the CDC website are ugly as hell and a total pain in the ass to use – especially in contrast to the slick and informative main page. If you do a little searching on that page, you’ll find something really interesting: the words “gun” and “firearm” appear zero times, even as we are in the midst of a news-gobbling national debate on just how dangerous guns are in America. Meanwhile, this report about a multi-state outbreak of hedgehog-linked salmonella infections is linked from the front page – OMG MICHIGAN! Three of those infections have happened here! Wash your hands, people!

Kidding aside, it’s actually a really good report: Lots of info, links to practical advice to parents and pet-owners. It’s basically exactly what you went from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Their site is packed with such handy info on everything from seasonal flu to water-related injuries.

Are you wondering why the hell the CDC has a section dedicated to fires, but nothing on firearms? Are you wondering why “guns” and “firearms” aren’t even listed in the alphabetical breakdown of site content? Have you noticed that the section on indoor firing ranges focuses on the dangers of high noise levels and lead exposure? Do you wonder why, if you search “guns” on the CDC site almost all of the returns are for nail gun injuries? It’s as though the CDC exists in an alternate America where Samuel Colt was a championship knitter. I recommend you and Google spend some quality time together. SPOILER ALERT: The NRA bullied the CDC away from researching gun violence.
[4] Wanna get super-depressed? The next runner-up for violent deaths for men was firearm homicide: 9,328 lives lost. The top three violent deaths for women in 2010 were suicide (by poisoning, firearm, and suffocation in that order), with homicide by firearm coming in as a distant third at 1,734 deaths.
[5] I’m told that conventional wisdom is that most suicides fail; only about 8% resulted in death in 2010. This is not the case with armed young men: Of the 24,035 Americans who tried to kill themselves with guns on 2010 (86% of whom were men), 19,392 – or roughly 80% – succeeded.
[6] From the CDC: “Legal Intervention – injuries inflicted by the police or other law-enforcing agents, including military on duty, in the course of arresting or attempting to arrest lawbreakers, suppressing disturbances, maintaining order, and other legal actions. Excludes injuries caused by civil insurrections.”
[7] With a telling breakdown: 15–24-years-olds accounted for 145 deaths, 25–34-years-olds for 107 deaths, 35–44-years-olds for 91 deaths (the next ten-year chunk gives you another 89 accidental deaths, then after that it drops off to something like 60 for folks between 55 and retirement, and another 50 or 60 for the elderly). All told, in 2010 62 people under the age of 14 were fatally wounded in gun accidents, while 544 were nominal “adults” – which is a very different picture than what we assume. The numbers tend to indicate that we do a decent job of keeping our guns out of the hands of our little ones; it’s ourselves we have to worry about.
[8] Only 595 of the injuries were children under 14, and most of those (523) were kids age 10-14. The distribution of accidental injuries is otherwise very similar to that of accidental deaths – which stands to reason; these were, after all, accidents.
[9] Yes, that’s an estimate – and a crummy one at that. Remember, gun sales and ownership are not meaningfully tracked in the U.S. Experts tend to base their estimate of the number of firearms floating around in the U.S. on the number of guns annually manufactured and imported. The latest reliable estimate is 310 million guns in the U.S.: 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles of all sorts, and 86 million shotguns. I got those numbers from page 8 of the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service’s 2012 report on Gun Control Legislation, although that’s just an analysis from the ATF’s Firearms Commerce in the United States 2011 report.

As for the current number of cars in the U.S., dammit, that’s an estimate, too, even though we do register cars in this country! Anyway, the most recent figure from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics is for 2009, when there were 254,212,610 registered passenger vehicles in the U.S.
[10] The CDC doesn’t offer us information on the intent (i.e., “act of violence” vs. “accident”) for motor-vehicle related deaths, so there’s a slight macintosh-to-gala comparison here; all apologies. We do know that there were 114 suicides and 39 homicides associated with “All Transport” in 2010, but those end up broken out under “Other Transport” rather than “Motor Vehicle Traffic,” so who knows; maybe it was all jumping in front of trains? (see Table 18 at that last link, if you wanna ponder this).
[11] Unsurprisingly, this is another gun number that’s shockingly hard to pin down. The current best-guess is four-million-ish, of which only two million may actually be living, breathing human beings who are aware that they support the NRA. According to folks active in the NRA only about 7% of the membership actual bother to vote in NRA board elections – which makes it sound like a pretty disconnected group, regardless of how many millions of living humans may actually be paying dues.
[12] Check the date on that article: 2010! It isn’t like this is a new problem.

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  1. March 22, 2013 at 10:11 am | permalink

    In general these columns are the result mulling things over and chatting with folks. This column was especially informed by conversations with Ben Brainerd, Anne Marie Ellison Miller, Michael Hoffman, and my dad–their goodwill, patience, thoughtfulness, and erudition are to be lauded. Thanks!

    March 22, 2013 at 9:48 pm | permalink

    Fabulous. Unfortunately, not many people will read this and the gun nuts / gun fetishists as I like to call them will boil and probably say nasty things and mangle the 2nd Amendment.

    And, most of all, no legislators at a state or national level will read this and actually realize what needs to be done.

    Just the same, thank you.

  3. By Ricebrnr
    March 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm | permalink

    you start by saying you take no meaningful stance and yet your article is peppered with language that shows a clear bias. That you cannot write neutrally despite stating you are is quite telling.

    I was going to go and indeed leave a long diatribe but am not going to, I am instead going to leave you with some thoughts.

    1) go to and do some more research.
    2) you make a great case regarding intent, yet you would more advocate for controlling objects that have no such capability. How about a real discussion about controlling those with the evil intent?
    3) Speaking of intent, you attribute much to President Obama but again with your own biases. He did not willingly the national Parks Carry Ban, he signed a bill in which that provision was attached. A bill that he had to sign. Also his inaction in his first term can ONLY be attributed to his desire to have a second. As he himself stated, AFTER the elections he would be more free to go after guns. And clearly he has.
    4) Numbers and interpretation. We have the lowest crime numbers in history. Conversely we have the highest gun ownership in history. Without getting into a causation/correlation argument Clearly high legal gun ownership has NOT caused greater crimes has it?
    5) “Last year in Chicago, 440 mostly dark-skinned children were gunned down” Yes Chicago which has the most onerous gun control laws in the country. Where even though the right to keep and bear arms has been upheld in the Supreme Court as an individual right, they STILL continue to fight tooth and nail in defiance of the law. Lets cut to the end game. Chicago is an anti gun person’s wet dream. For all their laws, they had another record breaking year for murders last year and are well on their way again this year. They have, bans, registration, confiscation and cops specifically saying they’ll shoot any gun holders whether they are Samaritans or criminals. How is all of that working out?
    6) finally, being a minority I can see and hear when condescension and bigotry are defended by saying, “I can say that because I have friends that are (gay/black/insert minority here).” That you point to your gun ownership as cred, speaks more along the lines of white-guilt than actual lending credibility. That’s ok we gun-owners are used to bigotry. Interesting that those who are supposedly enlightened will lump us all in with the criminals and the crazies, but change “gun owner” to Black (or other minority) in those same conversations and OMG!.

  4. By The bus Guy
    March 24, 2013 at 8:28 pm | permalink

    The data you collected is interesting. Another interesting tidbit from the FBI is that only 0.04% of all gun deaths are from rifles. While there is no data on what percentage of those deaths are from scary looking black rifles that fienstien wants so bad to outlaw, it is likely that about 3 out of 4 rifles used in crimes have old fashioned wooden stocks, mostly because modern black rifles are expensive and not as easy to find as others. So, if Fienstien had her way, and was able to ban black rifles, and if we assume that a ban would actually reduce the numbers of these rifles in the hands of criminals, the best we could hope for is a 0.01% reduction in firearm deaths.

    Why are some politicians so hell bent on banning an object that will have almost zero impact on gun deaths?

  5. By The bus Guy
    March 24, 2013 at 9:02 pm | permalink

    As far as suicide, while I agree that it is a tragic event, is it the responsibility of the government to protect a person from harming themselves? The courts have said that the police have no duty to protect you and me from criminals, so it is a difficult argument that the state should somehow have the duty to protect us from harming ourselves.

    I am not opposed to suicide prevention through various social programs.

    If the .gov were to ban the manufacture of new semi-automatic rifles, and create a national database of gun owners, where is the evidence that these measures would actual reduce the suicide rate? Since semi-automatic rifles are presumable used in infinitesimally small numbers of suicides, banning the manufacture of new rifles would likely not be a useful solution to the problem. Not to mention there are untold tens or hundreds of millions of rifles already in existence that would not be banned by the proposed new law.

    So we can turn to a national gun owners database, which is currently being proposed. How will this reduce suicide rates? California is currently the only state that has a task force specifically targeting people with registered firearms who were once legal, but are no longer permitted to own them either because of being convicted of a crime, or considered mentally unfit. The problem is that gun owners are being added to the list of prohibited person’s at a much faster rate than authorities can track them down. This is an example of law enforcement being totally unable to enforce existing gun law, while politicians want to create even more gun laws. (it is also an example of chipping away at peoples right to keep and bear arms. While we all agree that violent offenders should be prohibited, many people have lost their rights because of possession of marijuana, or throwing snowballs, or poor driving habits etc etc)

    If there were magically no more guns, which in itself is a fantasy,wouldn’t people who are motivated to kill themselves still find a tall building or a bridge, or a speeding train, or a cliff, or a knife, or a rope, or rat poison, gasoline, etc?

    Gun control has nothing to do with guns, and everything to do with control.

  6. By The bus Guy
    March 24, 2013 at 9:12 pm | permalink

    I am not a fan of the NRA. I am a fan of freedom and liberty. I would like to have a civil, logical conversation about gun control.

    Is there any evidence to suggest that similar gun control measures have been effective at reducing gun violence? The first time we banned semi-auto rifles from 1994 to 2004 the FBI indicates there was zero reduction in gun related crime. From 2004, after the ban ended, until 2010, the rate of gun violence has dropped significantly while the AR-15 rifle has become the best selling rifle in america.

    Chicago and Washington DC both have strict firearm possession laws as well as mandatory firearm registration. These cities have extremely high rates of gun crime. Passing more laws does nothing to protect people. Laws are simply used to prosecute and ultimately punish criminals after the fact.

    If a criminal is willing to commit murder, what logical person thinks that passing yet another gun law will somehow stop the criminal from committing his horrific act?

  7. By DrData
    March 25, 2013 at 11:11 am | permalink

    Interesting data visualization in the Washington Post today on gun deaths by state: [link]

    There is a big differential by race. Whites have much higher suicide death rates than blacks do; on the other hand the homicide rate for blacks is much higher than it is for whites.

    And, for those who wonder about access, there is a nice bar graph, which shows a ‘gun in home’ statistic for each state.

  8. By The bus guy
    March 25, 2013 at 3:50 pm | permalink

    Thanks for posting the link to that Washington post article! What a fascinating resource!

    At first glance I appears that states that are gun friendly, like Michigan have about 50/50 ratio of suicide/homicide rates. While places like Washington, D.C. That have near total gun bans the ratio is 10 homicides for every suicide by gun.

  9. By The bus guy
    March 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm | permalink

    It would be interesting to compare the actual suicide rate in DC (suicide with and without guns) and compare the overall suicide rate to other places, like Michigan.

    Does a place like DC have a lower suicide rate overall compared to gun friendly localities?

  10. By George Wieland
    March 25, 2013 at 5:26 pm | permalink

    I think there is something more to consider. If so few people are NRA members who vote, is NRA influence due to something else? What about campaign contributions to legislatures. So many in Congress vote according to that money. Is there any way to learn about the financial status of the NRA–where they get their money, and how much of it goes to pay off legislators? Or is there some other reason legislators are so responsive to the NRA? As the article shows, it can’t be the number of votes controlled by the NRA.

  11. By Ricebrnr
    March 25, 2013 at 6:52 pm | permalink

    “If so few people are NRA members who vote”

    Cite please, NRA’s power comes from single issue citizens who WILL vote vs. the majority of liberals who if they vote at all will vote based on several issues and thus dilute their voting power.

  12. By Jan Wolter
    March 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm | permalink

    The NRA originated as an organization of firearm owners, but in recent decades it has been receiving more and more of its funding from the firearm industry. Their political positions generally make a lot more sense if you view them as representatives of the firearm industry – certainly there are plenty of individual gun owners who hold the same views, but there wouldn’t be tons money to back those positions if it wasn’t for the firearms industry. That’s where the disproportionate influence comes from.

  13. By Tom Whitaker
    March 26, 2013 at 10:49 am | permalink

    The Second Amendment, as ratified by the states reads as follows:

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    It seems to me that the “well-regulated” part often gets left out whenever the NRA quotes the Second Amendment as gospel.

  14. By Ricebrnr
    March 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm | permalink

    “It seems to me that the “well-regulated” part often gets left out whenever the NRA quotes the Second Amendment as gospel.”

    It seems to me that people that don’t have a clue as to the history of the 2nd Amendment and its context often ignore “settled” law and the definition of “well regulated” let alone what and how a prefatory clause is used versus an operative clause.

    On June 26, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller (PDF), the United States Supreme Court issued its first decision since 1939 interpreting the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confers an individual right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense.

    In the majority opinion authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court first conducted a textual analysis of the operative clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Court found that this language guarantees an individual right to possess and carry weapons. The Court examined historical evidence that it found consistent with its textual analysis. The Court then considered the Second Amendment’s prefatory clause, “[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and determined that while this clause announces a purpose for recognizing an individual right to keep and bear arms, it does not limit the operative clause. The Court found that analogous contemporaneous provisions in state constitutions, the Second Amendment’s drafting history, and post-ratification interpretations were consistent with its interpretation of the amendment. The Court asserted that its prior precedent was not inconsistent with its interpretation. [link]

  15. March 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm | permalink

    RE: [14] Ricebrnr, it’s also worth pointing out that two years after Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 on McDonald v. Chicago, which had the effect of incorporating the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and applied the right described in Heller to the states. Of parochial interest to Ann Arborites is the fact that co-counsel for an amicus brief, filed by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League on behalf of the city of Chicago in that case, was local Ann Arbor attorney and city councilmember Christopher Taylor.

  16. By Alan Benard
    April 1, 2013 at 12:13 am | permalink

    The Second Amendment needs re-drafting by 21st Century people in order for it to be placed in a workable context. Leaving its definition up to the Roberts’ SCOTUS is not acceptable.

  17. By Ricebrnr
    April 1, 2013 at 9:46 am | permalink

    Why not start with the First? OR the Fourth or the Fifth for that matter?

    Fixing those will certainly go a long way to fixing lots of other problems too.

    Odd that I don’t recall calls for rewriting the First as the Internet was coming on-line. Seems that in that case we always went after the criminals NOT THERE TOOLS..

  18. By Ricebrnr
    April 1, 2013 at 9:47 am | permalink

    apologies, THEIR TOOLS

  19. April 2, 2013 at 2:04 pm | permalink

    The issue that comes up in this conversation is efficacy.

    The pro-gun argument is that you can’t positively establish a causal link between stricter gun control and a reduction in suicide/assault. This is intuitive and they will say things like, “if someone wants to kill themselves/someone, making it illegal or more difficult to buy a gun won’t help. They will just find another way or break the law to buy it”. This is a “common sense” matter in the same way that the earth is flat is just common sense, I mean just look at the ground, it’s not round. It’s true that it’s probably impossible to control for all of the other variables at play in determining suicide and crime rates; so measuring the actual effects of certain laws on them is a non starter.

    But as an economist, there is one thing that we have proven about human behavior. That is that we make decisions at the margin. All else being equal (ceteris paribus)If the price of oranges goes up, people will buy fewer oranges. For suicide, guns represent a ‘cheap’ method of killing yourself. By cheap I mean the ‘cost’ of killing yourself is not money but pain and uncertainty. Increase these ‘costs’ and fewer people will kill themselves. Make guns harder to access and some will decide to use poison or hang themselves or jump off a bridge. But for some of them the uncertainty of living through it and the prospect of diing slowly and in pain if it doesn’t work is enough to consider other options. Maybe they just wait the week long waiting period; during that time some of them will feel better by the end.

    Same thing with assault. If you make it harder to get a gun legally then you drive buyers to the black market where (in terms of price + risk) guns are more expensive. If you raise the cost of something, like doing a drive-by, then, ceteris paribus, people will do fewer of them.

    That’s just math.

  20. By Ricebrnr
    April 3, 2013 at 9:13 am | permalink

    Interesting topic efficacy, that same question can be posed to the pro gun control argument.

    The big take away is:
    LEVITT: I would just say that anyone with any sense looks at the current political climate, thinks about the kinds of proposals that are being made and accepts the fact that none of these proposals are going to have any real impact at all.

    I would add that can easily be extrapolated to 90% of gun laws. NO PROOF that they have any affect on crime. [link]

    The widely heralded economists Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt of Freakonomics fame took a look at some facts and figures surrounding the gun debate in their most recent podcast How to Think About Guns. Freakonomics tag line is “The Hidden Side of Everything” and in this podcast Dubner and Levitt give some hard facts and truths on guns in America. Facts and figures no one seems to be talking about in Washington or in the media. Essentially they highlight the ridiculous perspective and solutions of those leading the gun control conversation. Levitt states, ”I would just say that anyone with any sense looks at the current political climate, thinks about the kinds of proposals that are being made and accepts the fact that none of these proposals are going to have any real impact at all.” The podcast is 30 minutes long and is a good listen

  21. By Ricebrnr
    April 8, 2013 at 10:19 am | permalink

    SO will my previous comment ever come out of moderation????

  22. By ArtificerMade
    April 12, 2013 at 1:02 pm | permalink

    I tend to agree with you about the proposed gun regulations. Which frustrates me that they are even part of the debate.

    Magazine capacity restrictions do not appreciably limit a persons killing capacity.

    I like the idea of universal background checks for all pistol purchases, but all by itself it will not reduce the number of guns available (ultimately) to criminals.

    Anything that would significantly limit a criminals access to guns would need to limit a law abiding citizen as well and in a way that the 2nd amendment will not tolerate. Losing that amendment isn’t going to happen either (nor do I think it should).

    We should demand of our politicians that they propose legislation that focuses on the guns and behaviors that contribute to most gun deaths. And come up with legislation that is compatible with the second amendment.

    There should be a national registry, just like the founders had a list of every able bodied and armed man they might need to call to muster. Every gun owner SHOULD be called to muster at least twice a year in order to present their arms for inspection. Well regulated means that everyone conforms to a certain standard in their choice of gun, we should have a standard of quality at the least.

    A gun owner should have to show that he is capable of owning and using a gun safely. 200 years ago you could assume that your kids’ friends new not to play with the gun you keep in the bedroom closet. Today you cannot assume that at all.

    It is child-logic that says the second amendment prohibits laws which demand responsibility from gun owners.

  23. By Ricebrnr
    April 15, 2013 at 9:36 am | permalink

    “200 years ago you could assume that your kids’ friends new not to play with the gun you keep in the bedroom closet. Today you cannot assume that at all.”

    Why can’t you assume that? Is it because guns are so vilified that school children drawing pictures, making vague gun like gestures or playing with guns such as those from Lego figures get punished?

    “It is child-logic that says the second amendment prohibits laws which demand responsibility from gun owners.”

    What is child like is prohibiting honest and free gun safety classes in schools. We do it for drugs, we do it for sex, but tar and feathers if it’s suggested for guns.

    Responsibility leads to trust. WE don’t trust the government to leave registration alone. Mission creep reigns and registration has and will be abused with little or no consequences to the abusers. Look at the border patrol, look at the TSA. Do checkpoints 50 miles from a border or airport sound anything like the missions they were created for?

    IF you don’t watch the watchers, if you don’t resist when resisting is easy, it may well be impossible later.

  24. By John
    April 18, 2013 at 8:45 am | permalink

    I find it interesting that police, responsible for less than 1% of injuries inflicted with a firearm, are unquestionably recognized as a major deterrent to crime and violence yet the author wants to dismiss, through omission, the same deterrent effect of a responsible citizen with a firearm.

  25. By David Erik Nelson
    April 18, 2013 at 1:11 pm | permalink

    John: Funny you should bring it up, as I’m in the midst of drafting my next column in this series (to be published in May), which deals extensively with justifiable homicide and defensive gun use. Tune in next month for more charts!

  26. By Ricebrnr
    April 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm | permalink

    OIY!!!! Why do my comments take so long for moderation!?!?!