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I think I'm overthinking this problem, but it doesn't seem intuitive: if 184 million people drive daily resulting in 33,000 fatalities yearly, and there are 1.5 million gun owners who use their guns yearly, resulting in 776 unintentional fatalities yearly, what would be the equivalent fatality rate if adjusted for daily gun use?

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2 Answers 2

It's impossible to answer this question sensibly without knowing more details about what "yearly gun use" means. At one extreme, all gun owners use their guns every day, so "yearly gun use"="daily gun use". At the other extreme, all gun owners use their guns one day per year, so if instead they used their guns every day, there would be 365 times as many unintentional fatalities each year, or 283,240.

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There unfortunately isn't much data on how often gun owners actually use their guns. The only statistics I could find is roughly 1.5 million gun owners use their guns defensively every year, and an estimated 1 to 1.2 million instances of defensive gun use, so clearly some gun owners use their guns defensively more than once per year. Would it be fair to conclude that if 184 million gun owners used their guns daily, there would be 184 million * (776 fatalities / 1.5 million users) = 184 * 0.0005173% fatalities per user = 95,189 total fatalities? –  Maddox Jun 3 '13 at 0:49
    
To use one's gun defensively means that there is some sort of incident; it's not voluntary. It is extremely misleading to divide 776 by 1.5 million, because the 776 accidental deaths are completely unrelated to the defensive use of the guns, and do not involve the same people. Those deaths happen during gun maintenance or storage. You might equally say there are 3000 performances of trick shooting on stage per year, and divide 776 by 3000. –  vadim123 Jun 3 '13 at 1:01
    
That's true, but 776 is the best number I have to go off, and a conservative figure. According to CDC, "28,663 firearms-related deaths in 2000 --- an average of 79 per day---16,586 (57.9%) were suicides, 10,801 (37.7%) were homicides, 776 (2.7%) were unintentional, and an additional 500 (1.7%) were legal interventions or of undetermined intent." The assumption being made is that some percentage of defensive gun use may result in unintentional deaths (stray shots hitting bystanders, etc). –  Maddox Jun 3 '13 at 1:06
    
In my view your assumption is entirely unwarranted; there is no relationship between accidents/misfires and self-defense. –  vadim123 Jun 3 '13 at 1:28
    
There is empirical evidence that some self-defense gun use results in unintentional fatalities (cnn.com/2012/09/28/justice/connecticut-father-kills-son), however if you have a better estimate I'd be happy to use it. According to the Government Accountability Office, 31% of unintentional deaths could have been prevented with gun safety devices, implying non-defensive use. So perhaps .69 x 776 = 535 is a more accurate number to use? –  Maddox Jun 3 '13 at 1:43

The naive way: $184$ million, $33000$ fatalities = $179$ fatalities per year per million people. $776$ fatalities yearly naively becomes $776\times 365=283240$ fatalities per year = $188826$ deaths per year for daily usage per million people. Voilà! Guns are $1054$ times more deadly than cars.

Note that this is extremely naive. First of all, yearly gun users may not use their gun only once per year - that is quite unlikely (given most of them hunt a lot or practice at ranges a lot). Secondly, deaths with guns are usually 1. accidents 2. attacks. In the first case, using guns daily will improve skill a LOT (try finding a soldier who accidentally shot himself in the foot so hard he died). In the second case, murderers don't murder people as a linear function of gun uses (I WILL MURDER A PERSON EVERY 100TH TIME I USE A GUN MWAHAHA), but as a (roughly) linear function of people they unfortunately want to kill.

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