Taco Soup, and an Economic Argument for Gun Control

The United States of America, founded on July 4th, in the year of our Lord, 1776 by George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin, is a fucking mess.

Like, really, that shit is whack, yo. The gun problem? Fucking disgusting, fucking barbaric. The arguments against gun control? Abhorrent. Putrid. Draconian.

A number I often hear cited in their attempts at an argument is the number of deaths that cars are responsible for, or are involved in. According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, “[there] were 30,057 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2013 in which 32,719 deaths occurred,so if you want to ban guns, why not also ban cars?

First of all, no one wants to ban guns. Second of all, because cars do things other than intentionally hurt people. Third of all, the first thing was a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I’m saying.

The number cited would, of course, something similar to this, and coincidentally, these numbers also come from 2013;

Gun violence in the United States results in thousands of deaths and injuries annually.[1] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, firearms were used in 84,258 nonfatal injuries (26.65 per 100,000 U.S. citizens) [2] and 11,208 deaths by homicide (3.5 per 100,000),[3] 21,175 by suicide with a firearm,[4] 505 deaths due to accidental discharge of a firearm,[4] and 281 deaths due to firearms-use with “undetermined intent”[5] for a total of 33,169 deaths related to firearms (excluding firearm deaths due to legal intervention). 1.3% of all deaths in the country were related to firearms.[1][6]

That is 32,719 deaths annually for cars, 33,169 for guns (that number is 117,427 if you include injuries — car injuries, it seems, are not oft recorded). The part of the equation that I never see cited, is how many people have these cars and guns.

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While Reuters reports that there are 90 guns per 100 people in America, gun collectors would subsequently skew that average. While in comparison, mass shootings are still a (relative) rarity, it is safe to instead use reports that one third of Americans have guns in this equation: in a country with a population of 332,000,000, one third of that numbers makes the gun population closer to 110,666,667.

(And 666 means Satan.)

The amount of cars on the road, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, is a bit easier to calculate (regulation, and all) — there are about 253,000,000 cars are on the road.

110,666,667 guns, 253,000,000 cars. So, while the numbers 32,719 and 33,169 look a bit different;

110,666,667/ 32,719 = 3382.34 guns per death.

254,000,000/ 33,169 = 7657.75 cars per death.

There are a lot more cars, and not much many deaths. Roughly, 2.26403909719 times more deaths. While the economic impact of car crashes, as reported by USA TODAY is $817 billion, the majority (I don’t know much of American insurance) is paid by the people, for the people.

According to Business Insider, “American taxpayers pay roughly $12.8 million every day to cover the costs of gun-related deaths and injuries — and that is a conservative estimate, according to a new report released by Mother Jones on the cost of gun violence in America” — this adds up to about $229,000,000,000 annually. In other words, in about two and a half years, not having to deal with guns could buy the American taxpayer an entire Apple (at it’s current rate).

Or, in other other words, 12,023,544,149.9 pounds of Heinz ketchup from Amazon, that is 28,704 blue whales full of ketchup. You will have a lot of ketchup.

All kidding, and all balaenoptera-based humor aside, $229,000,000,000 is a lot of money, but that isn’t even the half of it. Every other time there is a shooting in America, and every time some politician talks about doing their job, some ass-wipe on Reddit starts talking about banning knives, spoons, pencils, sharpened pieces of frozen cheese and cars because, you know, they can too be used to kill people. Of course, said ass-wipe seems very intent on ignoring the fact that these weapons of his have ulterior motives in their design (frozen cheese is very good at crumbling on nachos, by the way).

If a knife is used successfully, you just cut up some beef for your soup.

If a spoon is used properly successfully, you just had some of that wonderful soup.

if a pencil is used properly successfully, you just wrote down notes on the soup recipe you just printed out.

If your frozen cheese is used properly successfully, you just made nachos again.

And if your car is used properly successfully, you just drove that delicious beef-soup to your brothers town house to share with your sister, his wife and her sister.

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If you used your gun properly successfully, you just shot someone. They may not be dead (ie: they are not black, and you are a cop), and they may actually be dead (ie: they are black, and you are a cop), but you still shot them, and you just cost the taxpayers paying your salary (an average of) $1,950,147 (annual cost/ number of injuries).

Calculating, then, the average cost of car crashes upon the average driver pays $3,229.25 in insurance. If you divide the amount into the average cost of a shooting incident (including court fees, etc.) by the average cost of having a car (excluding ass, gas, and/or grass), guns cost almost 604 times more than cars do.

And the worst part is that, dead or not, you are still missing out on some soup for dinner.

When I first posted this, after correcting some math, someone pointed out that my calculations were not including the 0s — the uses of guns in self-defense, where nothing actually happens. While I try to be clear that some numbers are not recorded, they are still really damn expensive to deal with.

While the website itself is of arguable legitimacy, I do applaud Guns in America for making PDF backups of their sources. Namely, a study done in 1995 by Gary Kleck for the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology: Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun;

The most technically sound estimates presented in Table 2 are those based on the shorter one-year recall period that rely on Rs’ firsthand accounts of their own experiences (person-based estimates). These estimates appear in the first two columns. They indicate that each year in the U.S. there are about 2.2 to 2.5 million DGUs of all types by civilians against humans, with about 1.5 to 1.9 million of the incidents involving use of handguns.

Gary Kleck is a university professor, and author of the much maligned article on Politico, Defensive Gun Use Is Not a Myth. I read this a while ago, but Bloomberg made a much smarter sounding response than one that I would have made;

The carping back and forth gets pretty technical, but the brief version is that Hemenway believes Kleck includes too many “false positives”: respondents who claim they’ve chased off burglars or rapists with guns but probably are boasting or, worse, categorizing unlawful aggressive conduct as legitimate DGU. Hemenway finds more reliable an annual federal government research project, called the National Crime Victimization Survey, which yields estimates in the neighborhood of 100,000 defensive gun uses per year. Making various reasonable-sounding adjustments, other social scientists have suggested that perhaps a figure somewhere between 250,000 and 370,000 might be more accurate.

Wherein Kleck’s estimated north of two million is oft parroted by pro-gun advocates, a comprehensive and systematic effort to catalog every publicly available defensive gun use (DGU) by the Gun Violence Archive argues otherwise; 1,582 in 2014, and 1,274 in 2015, and 6 so far in 2016.

Being that the year is not over, that 2016 number is likely to change.

Seeing as the Second Amendment Foundation seems so keen to delete all of the interviews LA Times did with Gary Kleck, it is going to be difficult to find the sources being cited by Bloomberg, any number between 1,582 and 250,000 is a lot different than 2.2 million — somewhere between 1,391x and 8.8x.

I don’t know what I can do with these numbers and my previous calculations, but I want to leave what I have found out in the open. Because I am a swell dude.

As you may have noticed, I am not the Pew Research Center, I am not an internationally respected newspaper printed on dead trees; I am neither from from the Center of Disease Control, nor from the Congress that banned all research into gun violence. I do not get my own findings, nor am I in much position to argue against the findings of reports that I have thus far cited. I found evidence that supported my interpretation of reality, but tried to ignore sources that lacked evidence, and websites with any association with obvious political biases, the information that I found on Wikipedia was tracked to their sources.

What I am trying to do is be honest. When I first made this argument, actually, the numbers showed that cars were a few times more dangerous than guns, but included me arguing the obvious beneficial net impact on the economy that I was too lazy to research — but I don’t have to anymore, which is good, because I already spent enough time researching just to win an argument with someone on Facebook.

Because, economic impact or not, guns are still a terrible idea. They are just now more of a terrible idea, and just because you can’t fix the entire problem, doesn’t mean you should not try.

And no, criminals do not love gun control, they love the fear of it, you troglodytes.

UPDATE: Edited for the maths.

UPDATE 2: Gun and self-defense stats.