Maggie A's Meanderings




 Mar 3, 2013

Guns and Smoking*

Guns Smoking
Other lives killed 11,103
11,101 gun homicides¹ (includes 6 infant homicides)
2 infant accidental deaths
for a total of 8 infant deaths
people die from
secondhand smoke
includes 900 infant deaths²
Legal penalties for killing with Prison, Execution possible None
User deaths 19,766
gun suicides
smokers die from smoking
Total Deaths 31,940
includes 849 accidental and 222 undetermined intent deaths where I don't know who died (user or other).
The total of gun deaths is less than two-thirds of the people killed by second- hand smoke.
Lives saved Some None
Responsible Users Most
Most private gun owners never shoot anyone else
I've never met a single
smoker who made sure
his/her smoke wasn't
breathed by anyone else, especially non-smokers.
Constitutionally protected Yes No
¹Total homicides were 15,953 (11,101 by firearms and 4,852 by other means), still less than one-third of the number of people killed by secondhand smoke (49,400). If killing people with secondhand smoke were considered homicide, it would be, far and away, the leading cause of homicide in this country.
²According to the FBI, of the gun homicides 323 people were killed by rifles and 356 people killed by shotguns, that's 679 people......still less than the 900 babies killed by secondhand smoke every year.

It's true you can commit armed robbery with a gun while you can't with a cigarette. But you can also use a gun to stop an armed robber.

It's true that guns kill faster than smoking and can kill more people in a single incident. But dead is dead. And let me tell you, as someone who has asthma, not being able to breath is horrible and can be scary and is also bound to be an unpleasant way to die.

So in looking at that table, is this issue about saving lives or some people's dislike/fear of guns?
Because if it's about saving lives, more lives would be saved by banning smoking than by banning guns.

Chart showing percent of people killed by guns and smoking

*Inspired by a conversation I had with a smoker who was perfectly willing to limit other people's gun ownership. I couldn't help but notice how he was willing to restrict other people's right to own guns because it ends up in killing innocents while I had breathed in his disgusting, poisonous smoke many times without him giving a thought about how smoking ends up in killing innocents. But the reality is, despite how much I hate smoking (and it's a lot, especially if you add in that most smokers are also litterers), if you gave me the power to outlaw smoking in the entire United States, I wouldn't do it. But I'm also not looking to go around and do a mass takeaway of other peoples' guns the way some people want to. Because, as I said in My Credo as a Liberal, "I believe that other people have a right to live their life in a way I don't agree with. But they don't have a right to impose that way of life on me. The reverse is also true." At least there can be serious legal consequences when a person imposes their gun usage on someone else and that's more than you can say about smoking.

Gun death data from the CDC: Hoyert, Donna L. and Jiaquan Xu, Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2011 - Selected Causes, National Vital Statistics Reports (NVSS) Vol 61, No 6, Oct 10, 2012 (accessed Feb 2013) gives a total of 32,163 gun deaths in United States — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law (accessed Feb 2013) and cites the CDC report, but I did a search of the CDC report for the word "firearm" and included every 2011 firearm death and I didn't find that number of deaths.**
Smoking death data from the CDC's Smoking and Tobacco Use Fact Sheet (accessed Feb 2013)
Data on infant deaths from secondhand smoke from Christopher Wanjek, Secondhand Smoke Kills 42,000 Nonsmokers a Year in US, LiveScience, Sep 28, 2012 (accessed Feb 2013)
Data on rifle and shotgun homicides from the FBI's Crime in the United States 2011 Expanded Homicide Data Table 8
(accessed Mar 2013)

Cause of death by the discharge of firearms:
Accidental discharge of firearms - 851
Intentional self-harm (suicide) by discharge of firearms - 19,766
Assault (homicide) by discharge of firearms - 11,101
Discharge of firearms, undetermined event - 222
Infant deaths, accidental discharge of firearms - 2
Infant deaths, assault (homicide) by discharge of firearms - 6
(When including these numbers in the table, I assumed that the 6 infant homicides were also included in the overall homicide number of 11,101. I added the two accidental infant deaths to the "Other lives" section as no infant is responsible for killing himself with a gun. This gave me a total "Other lives" number of 11,103. I also assumed that the 851 accidental discharge of firearms included the 2 infants, so in the table I lowered that number to 849 as I already included the accidental infant deaths in the "Other lives" category.)
Assault (homicide) - 15,953
Assault (homicide) by discharge of firearms - 11,101
Assault (homicide) by other and unspecified means and their sequelae - 4,852

If this piece made you think, you might find food for thought in "4 Proposed Amendments to the US Constitution" or "My Credo as a Liberal." 

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