Gun culture graphs don't come close to the whole picture

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

The United States has been described as having a thriving gun culture. Looking around at America’s gun stores and ranges, I’d say that’s accurate. Firearms aren’t just something we have access to here, it’s a way of life.

Yet for far too many, that’s actually a bad thing.

They don’t like the idea of a culture that not just tolerates guns, but loves and celebrates them.

As such, it’s not surprising that they’ll post a piece with a bunch of graphs, a brief discussion of those graphs, and a serious lack of context.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries of all causes during 2020, the last year for which complete data is available.

And while mass shooting and gun murders generally garner more media attention, of the total, 54% – about 24,300 deaths – were suicides.

A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found there was a strong relationship between higher levels of gun ownership in a state and higher firearm suicide rates for both men and women.

Advocates for stricter gun laws in the United States often cite this statistic when pushing lawmakers to devote more resources to mental health and fewer to easing gun restrictions.

Actually, many push for tighter gun restrictions as the sole answer for dealing with suicides and completely ignore the mental health aspect.

Worse than that, though, is that many want to stigmatize mental illness even more by requiring regulations that would strip people of their right to keep and bear arms if they’re even remotely sad.

This is something that American gun culture–namely the more activist side of it–have been opposing and been right to do so.

And there have been issues with studies showing “relationships” between gun ownership and suicide. After all, most suicidal people who want to use a gun will buy a gun, making them gun owners. That alone will skew the numbers, making such studies less than useless.

Like the guy on TV says, “But wait, there’s more!”

How do US gun killings compare with other countries?

In 2020, 43% of the deaths – amounting to 19,384 people – were homicides, according to data from the CDC. The figure represents a 34% increase from 2019, and a 75% increase over the course of the previous decade.

Nearly 53 people are killed each day by a firearm in the US, according to the data.

The data also shows that the vast majority of murders, 79%, were carried out with guns.

That’s a significantly larger proportion of homicides than is the case in Canada, Australia, England and Wales, and many other countries.

Ah, this old chestnut.

Fun fact, if you look at their homicide rates from before guns were heavily restricted and compare it to the United States’, you’d see that it was much, much lower prior to those laws being enacted.

Why?

Well, there are a lot of reasons. One may well be a difference in how crimes are reported. Another may simply be cultural. While we like to think Canada, Australia, England, and Wales are very similar to the US–and they are in many ways–they’re also all quite different, and not just because their gun culture is different.

Further, if you look at rates of crimes using other weapons such as knives, you’d also find those to be far lower–an interesting point considering knives are far easier to get in such countries.

The truth of the matter is that such graphs–and these are only two of seven–don’t give the whole picture. Don’t get me wrong, I love graphs. They can show us all kinds of things and be very illuminating. However, they can also show us just part of the picture, which is what’s happened here.

I don’t expect better from the media, though. This is just what they do, they try to use data to lie to the American people.

After all, where are the numbers illustrating defensive gun uses, for example? You can’t blast gun culture with supposed data unless you show all of it.