Statistics and the fear of firearms

Volokh: “More People Die from Guns Than Car Accidents in Michigan” – So states a Detroit Free Press op-ed headline. Here’s an excerpt from the op-ed itself:

The Reno Gazette Journal had a similar headline about Nevada.

“But wait: The number of accidental gun deaths in Michigan in 2009 (the most recent year reported in WISQARS) was … 12, compared to 962 accidental motor-vehicle-related deaths. 99% of the gun deaths in Michigan that year consisted of suicides (575) and homicides (495).”

“This also helps explain, I think, why gun rights supporters are so worried about “health and safety” proposals. Precisely because such proposals are so unlikely to have much of an effect, the gun rights supporters naturally assume that the backers of the proposals aren’t really after modest car-like “regulat[ions] … for health and safety,” but are actually trying to bring about much more aggressive sorts of gun restrictions.”

The underlying issue is one of intellectual integrity. In this case, the dishonesty comes in the form of the abuse of statistical measures.

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