The Ways We Die

Paul Waldman puts gun deaths in perspective:

There were 606 accidental deaths by shooting in 2010, or 1.66 per day. There were another 252 firearm deaths that were “undetermined,” which I guess means that the police never figured out whether it was an accident or intentional. You can look at this number in two ways. On one hand, there are over 300 million of us, so only one in 500,000 Americans is killed every year because his knumbskull cousin said “Hey Bert, is this thing loaded?” before pulling the trigger. You can see that as a small number. The other way to look at is that each and every day, an American or two loses his or her life this way. In countries with sane gun laws, that 606 number is somewhere closer to zero.

Aaron Carroll thinks we focus on the wrong risks:

Update from a reader:

I was shocked by the number of “unintentional” poisoning deaths – 33,041 in 2010! How, I wondered, could that many people be accidentally poisoned? A bit of googling found that, per the CDC, “91% of unintentional poisoning deaths are a result of drug overdose. Drugs commonly involved in unintentional poisoning deaths include opioid pain medications such as methadone, hydrocodone, or oxycodone.” Apparently the “unintentional poisoning” category increased 160% between 1999 and 2009.

So this chart, in addition to showing the relatively small (yet still too large) number of accidental gun deaths, also shows the massive increase in prescription drug addiction, overdose and death in the United States in the last decade. This, more than anything I’ve read lately, illustrated the enormity of this problem to me. Perhaps it will do the same for others.