17 States Where You're More Likely To Die From Guns Than Car Crashes
More evidence of America's out-of-control gun culture.
By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet
April 7, 2015
In one-third of America, you are more likely to be killed by a gun than in a car crash, a new Violence Policy Center (VPC) analysis has found.
“Firearm-related fatalities exceeded motor vehicle fatalities in 17 states and the District of Columbia in 2013,” VPC’s report said, citing the most recent federal data. “That year, gun deaths (including gun suicide, homicide, and fatal unintentional shootings) outpaced motor vehicle deaths in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.”
In those 17 states, there were 12,730 gun deaths, compared to 11,256 car-related fatalities. The states with the most gun deaths were Alaska, Louisiana, Wyoming, Tennessee and Missouri, where the death rate was 50 percent higher—or more—than the national average of 10.64 gun deaths per 100,000 people.
The reason why guns are killing more people than cars in these states is due to two simultaneous trends. The first is gun nuts have undermined sensible government efforts to require life-saving controls, the study said, such as features that prevent guns from mistakenly firing to limiting firearm accesss to people with violent histories. The second trend is that manufacturers have militarized the domestic market in recent years with semi-automatic features that were never on traditional sporting and hunting arms.
“Firearms remain the last consumer product manufactured in the United States not subject to federal health and safety regulation,” VPN said, whereas cars have been subject to safety requirements for decades—such as installing seat belts, head rests, energy-absorbing steering wheels, shatter-proof windows, as roadway features have become safter and penalities for driving while intoxicated have increased.
“As Dr. David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, notes in his 2004 book Private Guns, Public Health: “[T]he time Americans spend using their cars is orders of magnitudes greater than the time spent using their guns,” VPN said. “More than 90 percent of American households own a car, while a little less than a third of American households contain a gun.”
The report contrasts how car makers have taken steps to prevent injury and death, while gun makers and gun lobbyists have fought off many sensible safety regulations.
“We have lots of safety regulations concerning the manufacture of motor vehicles; there are virtually no safety regulations for domestic firearms manufacture,” VPN said. “And as is the case with motor vehicles, health and safety regulation could reduce deaths and injuries associated with firearms.”
It continued, “Comprehensive regulation of the firearms industry and its products could include: minimum safety standards (i.e., specific design standards and the requirement of safety devices); bans on certain types of firearms such as “junk guns” and military-style assault weapons; limits on firepower; restrictions on gun possession by those convicted of a violent misdemeanor; expanded prohibitions on possession by persons with a history of domestic violence and better enforcement of existing prohibitions; heightened restrictions on the carrying of loaded guns in public; more detailed and timely data collection on gun production, sales, use in crime, as well as involvement in injury and death; and, public education about the extreme risks associated with exposure to firearms.”
Moreover, the U.S. gun industry has militarized the civilian market, where increasingly lethal semiautomatic firing pistols and rifles have become the top-selling products. That trrend is documented in gun-control expert Tom Diaz’s latest book, The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take To Stop It.
On Friday, the National Rifle Association will hold its annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, a state where more people were killed by guns in 2013 than car crashes.
“It will include the largest firearms industry trade show of new weaponry open to the public, where gun companies will prominently feature military-style, semiautomatic weapons with high-capacity ammunition magazines,” VPN said. “The NRA website promises ‘the most spectacular displays of firearms, shooting and hunting accessories in the world’ and encourages attendees to ‘bring your whole family.’”
“The NRA is planning a big party in Nashville this weekend, but in reality there is nothing to celebrate,” VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann said. “Our analysis exposes the shameful fact that you are more likely to be killed with a gun than in a motor vehicle crash in Tennessee and 16 other states.”
“The time has come to stand up to the NRA and its corporate sponsors in the gun industry and regulate firearms for health and safety, just as we regulate motor vehicles and all other consumer products,” he said.
Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).