Monday, February 11, 2013

The Gun Control Debate: Some Statistics

The latest hot topic in the news these days has been the debate over gun control.  At issue is who should be allowed to possess which weapons, and under what circumstances?  Everyone seems to have a strong opinion backed by their own handpicked (and often conflicting) statistics.

This post is not intended to resolve the debate over gun control.  In fact, it's not even intended to persuade you either way.  Pick a side, either side, I don't care.  Rather, I've taken this opportunity to disseminate some facts that you can use next time you hear someone making up their own numbers to prove whatever point they're trying to make.  Knowledge is the best weapon.  I'm here to arm you with some fully-automatic, armor-piercing truth.

In the past couple weeks, I have heard such varying numbers from zealots on both sides of the debate that I decided to devote some time to doing my own research.  Luckily, the FBI publishes detailed yearly reports on virtually every aspect of any imaginable crime perpetrated anywhere in the country.  The reports are available for free at  The following are some numbers that the FBI reports.

In 2011 (the last year for which stats are available), there were 12,664 murders in the US.  That number does not include "justifiable homicide" (e.g. police who lawfully kill suspects in the line of duty, etc.).  Of those 12,664 murder victims, 6,329 were Black (49%) and 5,825 were White (45%).  The remaining 6% of victims were some other race.  9,829 were male (77%).  The remaining 23% were female or undetermined.

Firearms were the most common weapons used to commit murder.  8,583 people were murdered by guns in 2011 (67% of all murders).  Of those gun murders, 6,220 involved handguns (72% of all gun murders and 49% of murders overall).  Rifles were only used in 323 US murders from 2011 (only 3.7% of gun murders and 2.5% of murders overall).  18 states had 1 or fewer murders involving rifles.  There are no available stats to indicate how many of the rifle murders involved "assault-type" rifles vs. traditional hunting rifles.  According to the FBI, you are 5x more likely to be stabbed to death, and 2x more likely to be beaten to death, than you are to be killed with a rifle.

The FBI also sorts their murder numbers by region.  If you want to decrease your chances of getting stabbed, move to the Midwest.  Only 9% of their murders involved knives or cutting weapons.  Compare that to the Northeast, where 16% of the murders involve stabbing.  While the Midwest claims the lowest relative murder rate by stabbing, they have the highest relative murder rate by firearms (71% compared the national average of 67%).

California had the highest number of total murders at 1,790 (take that, Texas!).  Hawaii had only 7 murders all year.  Of California's 1,790 murders, 1,220 involved firearms (68%).  866 of those involved handguns (48%).

So what have we learned?  The biggest stat that jumped out at me was how FEW people are actually killed with rifles every year in the US.  I found that surprising.  Spree killers armed with high-capacity assault rifles grab headlines, but they are responsible for only a negligible, statistically irrelevant number of killings every year.  As I mentioned above, there were 18 states in the US that experienced 1 or fewer rifle murders for the entire year of 2011.  Guess how many people were killed by sniper attack in the US last year.  Give up?  1.  1 person in the entire country was murdered by a sniper in 2011.  According to the American Journal of Medicine, about 16,500 people are killed every year by Aspirin.  You heard it here first: you are 16,500x more likely to be killed by Aspirin than you are to be killed by a sniper.

Regardless of your position on gun control, we can probably all agree that 8,583 gun-related murders are too many.  We should also agree that limiting access to rifles is not the most efficient way to reduce the overall number of gun deaths in this country.  Disagree?  As always, please feel free to comment below.  Thanks for reading!

If you or a loved one has questions about the law regarding firearms in California, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.

Santa Ana Gun Lawyer