Recently, a gun violence prevention group called the Virginia Center for Public Safety put out a statistic that seems almost too hyperbolic to be true:

“Since John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, more Americans have died by gunfire within our own country than American servicemen and women who were killed in all our wars.” (source)

This is the kind of statistic that makes gun nuts lose their minds, because they can’t really argue their way out of the facts. Of course, they will point to all kinds of statistics too, like that violent crime is down in the country, that the vast majority of gun owners don’t use their weapons perniciously, and that compared to car fatalities, guns are almost like feathers that you’d tickle someone’s taint with, though that last one isn’t so much true anymore, if you count suicides performed with guns. Then the number of gun deaths meets or even surpasses car deaths.

The folks at PolitiFact did what they do, and they fact-checked the claim using the most recently available data. Their conclusion? The Virginia Center for Public safety was right on the money, and Politifact rated the claim “True.” Ouch, sorry gun nuts, it looks like your guns really are capable of killing a lot of people, aren’t they? But don’t take my word for it, read PolitiFact’s conclusion for yourself.

Our ruling

The Virginia Center for Public Safety says that since 1963, more Americans have been killed by gunfire than have been killed in all U.S. wars.

Figures going back to 1968 show about 1.5 million firearms deaths have occurred since then. That doesn’t include data from gun deaths from 1963 to 1967, years for which figures aren’t available, so this is a conservative estimate on firearms deaths since Kennedy was assassinated.

In contrast, a high-side figure for U.S. war deaths shows that about 1.4 million service members have been killed in conflicts.

So we rate the claim True. (source)

Now that we’ve established that indeed guns have taken more American lives than warfare has, that means we get to take everyone’s guns away, right fellow liberals?

No, of course that’s not what it means. I happen to be one of the millions and millions of liberal Americans who has no problem with guns. Provided, that is, that we stop pretending as if they are some divine instruments of freedom and liberty and not deadly weapons. If people were still using broadswords instead of Glocs, I am sure there would be sword nuts claiming that swords don’t kill people, people do. Which of course is true, but completely misses the point in favor of the same straw man argument that it is when you replace swords with guns.

Instead, what this statistic should mean is that we get to write common sense gun regulations. Things like requiring every gun transaction to be checked against a federal database of violent criminals and terrorists. This isn’t rocket science. Americans are killing other Americans at a higher clip than terrorists are, so it’s about time we address the issue as the threat to domestic tranquility that it is.

Guns themselves aren’t the problem — it’s the idea that they are benign, that their owners are automatically infallible, and that at no time are the rest of us able to call “time out” and have a discussion about them that might, yes, include a decision to make it temporarily more inconvenient for you to buy one — that’s the problem. Maybe if more people get familiar with statistics like the one published by the Virginia Center for Public Safety and confirmed by PolitiFact, there can be more pressure for legislators to ignore the ignorant and listen to common sense. But let’s not go holding our breaths on that, just yet.



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