Killing Americans: Guns and Cars
by Nathan Barton © 2012
May 28, 2012
On Friday, a link to an article on Alternet appeared in my e-mail (from a friend): Since Colorado was listed as one of the ten states where “guns killed” more people than “cars killed” (actually, motor vehicles, including trucks and buses and motorcycles), and since I do a lot of work in Colorado, I decided to see if this was indeed true (I have a naturally suspicious mind). So I did a quick search on the topic.
and behold, virtually the first article to pop up (my search phrase was
2009 Firearm Deaths”) was this one: More
Coloradans died from guns than car wrecks in 2009, study says
The reporter was Mr. Monte Whaley of the Denver Post. Reading his article, it appeared to be substantially the same as the Alternet version and even the Huffington Post copy. There is obviously a Q document out there: perhaps a press release by the Violence Policy Center (VPC)?
(I started to write some comments in the Denver Post’s on-line edition, but decided that more people will read it if I pass this on to some on-line magazines and bloggers and such):
Mr. Whaley, I do not understand your article published in the Denver Post on May 25, 2012. According to a story published in the Denver Post on January 15, 2010 there were only 464 traffic deaths, yet your story quoted the VPC data of 565 deaths by motor vehicle without challenging their numbers at all. (Or conversely explaining why the Post was wrong in 2010.) What gives?
Here is information from that 2010 article:
denver and the west
Colorado traffic fatalities drop to 30-year low
Posted: 01/15/2010 01:00:00 AM MST
Updated: 01/15/2010 05:59:45 AM MST
By Kirk Mitchell
The Denver Post
The number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes on Colorado roads last year dropped to what is likely the lowest level in 30 years, authorities said.
"It's difficult to call it 'good news' when so many people still died last year on Colorado roadways, but the progress the state has made in saving lives is truly encouraging," Gov. Bill Ritter said in a statement.
In 2009, 464 people were killed in traffic crashes in Colorado, a 15 percent drop from 2008, when 548 people died on state roadways, said Heather Halpape, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Read more: Colorado traffic fatalities drop to 30-year low - The Denver Post
However, CDPHE reports (pdf) that 553 deaths in 2009 were “Motor Vehicle Unintended” – which still does not match the VPC 565 number (or the Denver Post’s 464 number).
That same report states that there were 579 deaths in Colorado in 2009 which were “Injury by Firearm” and lower than the VPC’s 583 claim. You have to go to another CDPHE web page to see a breakout. For 2009, there were 7 unintentional firearm deaths, 105 firearm homicides, 6 firearm deaths from “undetermined intent,” 8 that were “legal intervention” and 453 that were suicide by firearm.
This information, which is readily available (it took me about 10 minutes to find it, and I’m not a journalist or investigator), should have been included in your article. Why wasn’t it?
This information shows (1) the VPC is not careful about their data being accurate (the 464 versus 553 versus 565 number AND the 579 versus 583 number. (2) The VPC comparison is an apples and oranges one. First off, although we know people DO commit suicide by automobile, and DO commit vehicular homicide, it is reasonable to assume that the vast majority of motor vehicle fatalities are “unintended” – that is, accidents. On the other hand, the vast majority (566 of 579) firearms deaths can be assumed to be INTENTIONAL (yes, some homicides and suicides are accidental, but it is not a large number). Comparing unintentional (or undetermined) causes of death in Colorado in 2009, firearms were “responsible” for a mere 13; motor vehicles for 553.
The VPC press release (and your article) seemed to concentrate on children, so I also looked at the CDPHE statistics for age 18 and under: 56 died due to motor vehicle injuries, 16 killed themselves with firearms, and 7 were homicides committed with firearms. 56 to 23: more than 2 to 1. It would seem to be a stronger argument for making the transportation of minors by motor vehicle illegal than for banning (or more tightly regulating the safety of) firearms.
Oh, but without guns, people would not kill themselves so readily, some might claim. Well, in Colorado in 2009 (according to CDPHE), there were 940 suicides. Only 453 were using firearms: less than half. The rest poisoned themselves, hung themselves, dived off cliffs or bridges, or found one of the dozens of other ways we humans can end our own lives.
in the future, when you write your story, do a small bit of research
take press releases for granted or as gospel.
Oh, and Mr. Whaley, I don’t think I’m going to follow you on
Twitter. I know a lot of newspaper
reporters and publishers, and I respect and like a few of them.
Obviously, Mr. Whaley is far from the only
newspaper or media type who edits a press release and publishes it
under his byline, when it seemingly supports his position on firearms,
liberty, and self defense. And if VPC has one state's data wrong,
I think it reasonable to assume that they might have more than one -
and we all know how statistics lie. But they have a big voice:
page after page of search results have this lying piece of trash
featured. But we can overcome it, in part, with truth.
©Nathan A. Barton, 2012. May be reproduced in full with proper attribution only.
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