A few days after performing at the presidential inauguration, a 15-year old girl was shot and killed in Chicago when she was mistaken for a gang member. In 2012, just a few days before Christmas, 20 children and 6 adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by a gunman who reportedly suffered from mental illness. In 2002, 10 people were killed and 3 wounded when a sniper randomly shot people in the Washington, D.C. area. Each of these tragic incidents received national media attention, not just immediately after the incidents, but for days, weeks and even months following the incidents. Frenzied outcries immediately followed these tragedies from both the public and politicians calling for stiffer gun control laws. Equally loud were the voices of those opposing strengthening gun control laws, arguing that these events were relatively isolated events, perpetrated by criminals or the mentally ill. However, statistics show that gun violence is no longer unusual.
Car Accident Fatalities
Many have heard the saying that flying is safer than driving, as far fewer airplane passengers die in plane crashes than car passengers die in car collisions. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) until recently car accidents were the leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States. Now they are second only to poisoning by overdosing on drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin. However, recent trends in gun deaths show a disturbing trend. Gun deaths, including suicides, are almost equal to the number of deaths in car crashes. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2010 there were 32,885 deaths in car accidents. For the same year the CDC reports that there were 31,672 firearm deaths.
Indeed, David Resnick, a New York car accident lawyer, notes that while the number of car owners has increased, the number of deaths in car accidents has decreased almost each year from 2005-2012 with 2010 being the exception. On the other hand, deaths by firearms have increased almost every year since 1999, with 2003, 2005, and 2009 being the exceptions.
When people are killed by guns, shock is felt well beyond the family and friends of the victim. Perhaps this is because car accidents are often viewed as just that- accidents. Even though someone is typically negligent and the accident avoidable, the public is not often outraged by a car accident fatality. With gun deaths, the public is polarized with some being outraged and some feeling that the accident was an anomaly. Sadly, gun deaths are no longer anomalies and just like car accidents occur far too often. Whether one is for or against stiffer gun control laws, it is undeniable that firearm deaths are increasing and soon are likely to become more common than car accidents.
The causes for car accidents vary. Some are due to people driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Over the years laws related to driving while intoxicated have stiffened and technology for detecting such drivers has become more sophisticated. Other car accidents are due to violations of a traffic law such as failing to stop at a red light or exceeding the speed limit. In these cases legislatures and law enforcement agencies across the country have successfully modified laws and changed technology to reduce the incidence of people breaking these and other traffic laws. Even car manufacturers are always seeking ways to make vehicle safer so that even when there is an accident, the likelihood of injury or death is reduced. Conversely, gun manufacturers have sought ways to make guns more lethal.
With the increase in gun violence perhaps legislatures should seek to modify laws in order to curb the trend of more and more gun deaths and injuries. Do you think there is a way to modify gun laws so that the number of gun deaths decreases, while at the same time respecting the constitutional right to bear arms?