Guns and Cars, Data and Bias

Recently, the Washington Post published a CDC data set and graphs showing that gun deaths and motor vehicle deaths occurred at the same rate in 2014; 10.3 people per 100,000 were killed in incidents involving each. Since motor vehicle deaths have been dropping precipitously over the past decade or so, and gun death rates have remained about the same, it isn’t really surprising that the rates have converged.

But, says the gun lobby sycophant, those stats are bias. You see, the gun deaths include suicides and, because the gun lobby thinks suicides are somehow lesser than other deaths, anything that includes suicide numbers must be bias and a lie. There is a big problem there though.

The motor vehicle death rate includes suicides too. And homicides. And accidental deaths. It covers all deaths in which a motor vehicle was the primary cause of the injury which led to death, just like the gun death rate does. That’s not a bias; it is just a good statistics and a reasonable comparison.

Now, there is another issue that the gun lobby could point to if they really wanted to make a claim of bias. They could point out that the CDC data does break down motor vehicle death rates into suicide, homicide, and unintentional like it does with gun deaths and that the limited breakdown is somehow an attempt to cover-up the true toll motor vehicles take on our country. The gun lobby won’t look into that actual issue with the data though, and here’s why: no gun lobbyist wants to be stuck with the data that guns kill lots of people on purpose, while cars primarily kill people unintentionally. Who would really want to argue from that position? “Oh, yes, guns are safe because most of the time that they kill people it was intended.” That strikes us as awfully similar to arguing that war is safe because, after all, most of the people killed are killed intentionally.

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