|Commander Kelly + His Favorite Gun|
Let's talk about guns. Let me say at the outset, that I am NOT an NRA member and I have NEVER owned a working firearm.
I recently was forwarded this startling message via social media. Mark Shields, a commentator on PBS claimed on 12/20/2012 that "more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country's history,"...http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jan/18/mark-shields/pbs-commentator-mark-shields-says-more-killed-guns/. We are assured by the "Politi-fact Truthometer," that Shields' claim it "true".
This is precisely the type of rhetoric that Europeans and others love to read about those "bloodthirsty American cowboys" mowing each other down in the streets. It confirms all their favorite prejudices about violent American gun owners. This is a shocking, attention-grabbing headline.
But is Mark Shields' claim really correct?
First off, are the US War deaths figures accurate? According to Shields, total US war deaths have been 1,171,177. Well his source is the CRS (Congressional Research Service), which appears reputable. Here is their 2010 study: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf.
|Cherry Valley Massacre|
November 11, 1778
What about America's bloodiest conflict -- the US Civil war? The CRS study only cites total Union deaths which it gives as 364,511. In a footnote it mentions an estimate of total Confederate dead at 133,821 and cites an additional 28,000 to 31,000 of POW deaths. Shields' source extrapolates on the basis of the footnotes and gives a combined Civil war death total of 525,000.
In 2012 a new study by demographer David Hacker, however, has just raised the estimated total American civil war deaths to 750,000 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/science/civil-war-toll-up-by-20-percent-in-new-estimate.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0. This implies that, according to the latest scholarship, Shields' source UNDERCOUNTS civil war deaths by 225,000!
If we take WIKI as our source for total US War deaths (1,321,612 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war) which was clearly more accurate on the American Revolution (thought probably still too low) we get and then update for the latest US civil war deaths based on the Hacker study (add 125,000 deaths more than the WIKI Civil War figures) we get a total American war deaths figure of 1,446,612.
If look a the other side of the claim (1,384,171 killed by firearms from 1968 to the present) and accept that, provisionally, as true we can see that SHIELD'S CLAIM IS DEMONSTRABLY FALSE.
You might still object that 1,384,171 killed by firearms since 1968 is still an awful lot and close to the total US war dead.
Shield's claim is also highly misleading.
Consider, for example, the phrase "killed by firearms". That means that ALL firearm-related deaths are counted, including suicides and accidents. The annual murder rate by firearms (11,078 in 2010) has been going down steadily since 1981. The annual suicide rate by firearms (19,392 in 2010) is, however, is nearly TWICE the murder rate and is reaching new highs (Source: http://www.factcheck.org/2012/12/gun-rhetoric-vs-gun-facts/). Consider this suicide rate against the fact that 1,660,290 new cases of cancer are estimated to be diagnosed in 2013 (American Cancer Society). A majority of firearm deaths are NOT the result of violent crime at all.
It is true that many Americans own guns (88.8 guns per 100 people in 2007). It is also true that the total population of Americans (316,364,000 per 2010 census) is vastly larger than it was at our nation's founding (3,929,214 per 1790 census) and about 10X greater than at the start of the US civil war (31,443,321 per 1860 census). A combination of more people, more guns and a greater acceptance of suicide as an option has, tragically, elevated US suicide rates to record levels.
You can now purchase Commander Kelly's