Why Do Gun Deaths Matter More Than Road Deaths?

The Daily Mail got me started, with their headline: “A mass shooting happens every FIVE days in America which led on, in turn to this analysis by one of the “tighter gun control” journalists at the “Daily Beast”.

We always get a similar flare up from the gun control lobby whenever there is yet another slaughter on the American street, but I was surprised to find the casualty rate this high. What, I wondered, was the current rate of US Road Deaths and to my even greater surprise I found that they’ve just about reached perfect parity, which is, I believe an historical first.

Now the question is, how should we put that?

For the first time ever, “Americans are killing as many people with guns as they kill on the roads” represents it as bad news for supporters of the 2nd Amendment. On the other hand: “American Road Deaths have fallen as low as American Gun Deaths” makes it a good news story for both.

In fact, truth is a good news story for both. Deaths from both causes have declined in the past decade, quite dramatically. But Road kills are down more dramatically than executions.

Both are currently killing nearly 90 Americans every day. 32,000 every year.

Consider the furore which began with 9-11 and continues to this day; the massive surveillance and legal infrastructure imposed around the world in an attempt to prevent another similar scale attack. Consider the – largely successful – attacks on liberty, free speech, free movement and privacy which have so dramatically changed all our lives since that evil day; not to mention two wars, one of which is internationally recognised as illegal and which have, between them, caused the deaths of vastly more civilians than the event which sponsored them.

If that colossal and sustained response is considered a rational reaction to the loss of 2600 innocent Americans, two rather large elephants appear in the room.

On the one hand, anyone who regards the reaction to 9-11 as rational and proportionate, can hardly complain when some citizens want to do something about the vastly greater American civilian death toll caused – often as deliberately as the 9-11 perpetrators – by their fellow citizens.

And, on the other hand, anyone who regards tighter gun control as the rational response to gun crime needs to address the question of why they make so little fuss about the – currently similar but historically much MUCH worse – CARnage on the roads.

Where, in other words, is the “Campaign to control Cars”?

Actually, I first answered that question in my chapter covering the War on Drugs. But an obvious further distinction has occurred to me which answers the question as to why gun death cause more anger and reaction than road deaths. Gun deaths are mostly deliberate. Road deaths are mostly accidental. But that doesn’t make it rational to prioritise one over the other. Not only that, but I would bet that every thousand dollars spent on Road death reduction would save more lives than a similar sum spent on gun death reduction.

What the gun control lobby have to accept, however, is that the principles involved in upholding the 2nd Amendment matter at least as much to supporters of gun ownership as do the massive convenience and freedom of movement (which even the wave of post 9-11 Authoritarianism hasn’t significantly dented) matter to car owners and users.

In each case, it is clearly the consensus of the supporters of their particular lethal prediliction that the benefits outweigh the costs.

But there is a further complication. The costs of both lethal behaviours are borne by society as a whole. And in terms of sheer numbers, there are clearly far more beneficiaries, and therefore, supporters of road transport than there are supporters of gun ownership. Even citizens who never drive clearly benefit from road transport; if only as a result of the food and material distribution network which keeps us all fed and clothed. So we can easily argue that support for our deadly motor transport system is, near as dammit, a true consensus. Only a few percent would be prepared to argue for dramatic reductions in the “right to drive”

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About Harry Stottle
Refugee from the Stumbleupon Blogicide of October 2011 Here you will find my "kneejerk" responses to the world and what I happen to bump into. For my more detailed considerations and proposals, please visit my website or my previous main blogging site.

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