Sunday, January 16, 2005

Why Gun Nuts Need Math Lessons

Why oh why do innumerate dittoheads try to persuade people of anything?

This argument has a hole so big, you can drive a truck through it. I lack the time to tear the whole thing apart, so I'll just tear the heart out of it. Shamefully, it's all over the Internet.

See if you can spot the problem with the following. Pay close attention. There will be a hint. Like Blue's Clues for gun nuts.

"Guns cause fewer ACCIDENTAL deaths than doctors do, and since we aren't going to illegalize doctors, we shouldn't illegalize guns."

Now, the numbers from the CDC do in fact back up some of this rather shitty reasoning. For the sake of argument, let's look at 2002, a typical year known neither for exceptional physician negligence nor exceptional gun-nuttery.

Unintentional firearm deaths in US in 2002: 762.
Deaths from adverse effects of medical care in US in 2002 (regardless of intent): 2596.

How counter-intuitive! My impression of nurses as "not deadly" and guns as "deadly" must be totally wrong! What could be the problem here? I dunno. We added up all the times a gun killed a person by ACCIDENT. What are we missing... Maybe...


Let's see... How many of those are there?

All firearm deaths in 2002: 30,242.

Wow, an extra 29,480 intentional deaths from guns. People use guns to kill people? You're kidding? Maybe that's why I think guns are more dangerous than doctors?

So let's check in with our scoreboard:

Guns (all intents): 30,242
Doctors (all intents): 2596

Now, ironically, the Gun Nut's conclusion (Doctors more deadly than guns) leads to some interesting consequences. For example, since the killing power of a physician has been "demonstrated" to be so much greater than that of a gun, perhaps the gun nut would be in favor of changing our military spending to acquire more MDs and fewer M-16's?

The argument then goes on to do some crappy probabilistic reasoning with bad numbers. I will fix that.

First, there aren't 700,000 physicians in the US, there are 856,187

But this doesn't matter. It's not just deaths from doctors included in the 2596, it's deaths from medical care. So the real number to look at is the number of medical care workers in the US. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics: 12,900,000 people.

So for the 12,900,000 people who could cause a death by medicine, we have only 2596 deaths. Deaths from health care per worker in healthcare: .0002

Now I tried to find an accurate number of gun owners in the US, but came up short. If anyone can find a credible source, I'll gladly insert your number in here.

But if we take the gigantic 80,000,000 number, and the 30242 deaths, we get .0004 deaths by guns per gun owner.

And for the gun nuts: .0004 is twice as many as .0002.

Of course, if we want to figure out which is more likely to kill you, we don't need to do all this dividing by the number of people crap.

Guns deaths 2002 (all intents): 30,242
Medical care deaths 2002 (all intents): 2596

30242 / 2596 = 11.6

So if you're an average American, you're about 11 times more likely to die from a gun than from receiving health care.

Please, Gun Nuts: Stick to loud yelling and shooting things. Using reason to advance your cause is not a strategy that harnesses your comparative strengths.