More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history. Each year, the number of firearm-related deaths reach almost the equivalent of U.S. casualties in Korean War.
|► 2016 New version available!
This visualization has been updated. Have a look at the new version here: [Visualization] More Americans have died from guns since 2001 than in Korean and Vietnam wars
|► Please note that this post simply visualize the informations contained in Nicholas Kristof’s and Louis Jacobson’s articles (links below), who discuss precisely the nature and consistency of the data (read them before taking this data visualization as a simple pro- or anti-gun campaign).|
CC-BY-SA Data visualization freely reusable with a link to this post.
In a recent article, Louis Jacobson (@loujacobson) fact-checked the information published by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof). Reacting to the murder of two journalists in Virginia, Kristof cited the calculation set by Mark Shields three years ago on PBS: “since Robert Kennedy died in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in all the wars of this country’s history”. On politifact.com, Jacobson updated the figures and validated the assertion of Kristof. Based on a study of the Congressional Research Service and reports relating to most recent conflicts, he shows that 1,396,733 Americans were killed on the battlefields. Governmental reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that there have been 1,516,863 gun-related deaths since 1968 (included suicides).
The visualization above is a simple contribution to the understanding of this reality.
I would like to know what the percentage for black males in war time and since 68. I am sure it is wildly disproportionate. Even if you adjust the ratio for the Civil War.
I rather doubt the conclusion. The data is likely skewed is some shape or form.
I totally agree with you, these data should not be interpreted in a moral sense. But this does not prevent the factual comparison (as the purpose is simply to show a fact and not a political conclusion itself): it is a fact that a number of lives were lost in a certain situation and another number of lives in another situation. Remember that I do simply illustrate Nicholas Kristof’s quote and that this issue about interpretative limits is discussed in his column and in the analysis of Jacobson.
most gun related death stats include suicides which is one way the stats get skewed.
As you may know, a suicide with a gun is a “firearm-related death” (Thank you, Captain Obvious!). 😉
Rick, how could that fact skew the data? The easy availability of guns inproves the success rate of suicides. Here in Australia the firearm related suicides dramatically declined after we introduced controls on gun availability. We did not ban guns, we made access to them, even for permit holders, less impulsive and removed from our national psychy that a gun is a piece of home safety equipment. If gun ownership was actually related to safety families with guns would be safer right? So why do the stats say just the opposite. To all but the brainwashed its obvious. Access to firearms at the point of impulse is dangerous. Controling it (not banning it) is a balanced, rational and effective response.
What an excellent analysis! “Access to guns at the point of impulse is dangerous. ” There yu have it.
Well said!!! A convincing logical argument backed by evidence ….too bad politicians can’t make them — they are too busy pandering, acting or stealing, or getting elected.
Yet you neglect to mention that the overall suicide rate in Australia did not change as hangings rose. Same thing happened in Australia: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16476153
Same thing in Canada.
so I would like to see another research showing how many of these gun deaths were at the hands of criminals who broke the law by doing so. then compare it to how many of them used legal guns. then compare it to how many of those deaths would have been avoided if it would have been against the law to murder someone. then tell me how by taking gun away fro law abiding decent people would prevent bad people who have no regard for the laws from breaking the law.
Your right, it is skewed by including suicides. They author wants you to infer that the suicides would not have happened if there were no guns.
No, it is not “skewed” to include suicides. Suicide attempts that involve guns are far more likely to be “successful” than those that utilize other means (cutting, overdosing on medication, etc.). Often people feel suicidal in the moment, and then change their mind later. If access to guns was more difficult, more people would get that second chance, and there would be fewer suicides.
Not true. The post-Sandy Hook research ordered by President Obama found that suffocation has equal efficacy. Japan has a much higher suicide rate, minus the firearms.
PLEASE tell me this statement is a joke? Your from the NRA?
How so? Our suicide rate by firearm has declined sharply since we controled access. As an ex cop, RN, ex gun owner and suicide prevention volunteer I can tell you for sure that firearm suicide attempts are more likley to be successfull and cause more harm to those attending than other popular methods. Community harm by firearm suicide is a very real and valid metric.
“Trends in hanging and firearm suicide rates in Australia: substitution of method?”
No, there is no implication that there would be no suicides without guns. The author simply cites statistics; we can draw our own conclusions. Like several others who responded here, I find it fascinating that those who criticize the gun-related death rates argue that the statistics are inflated by including suicides. Clearly, whether you want to kill yourself or someone else, easily available guns increase the effectiveness of the action. If that were not the case, people would not want to own guns. Having a gun greatly increases the odds that a spur of the moment suicide attempt will be successful, with far less possibility of changing your mind.
You could say numbers are skewed because the deaths in war also include friendly fire, suicides and accidents outside of the battlefield. Remove those casualties and you will have dramatically different numbers.
This is a comparison of deaths in war and deaths from the barrel of a gun. Stop trying to dismiss the data to suit your agenda.
Most suicides are from overdose so we should outlaw doctors and pills.
Stupid remark. Skewed reasoning. Gun nut.
A flat-out lie, this. Isn’t it? Actually suicide by gun is the single most popular method in the US, accounting for more than half of all suicides. Here are the CDC figures:
Number of deaths: 41,149
Deaths per 100,000 population: 13.0
Number of deaths: 21,175
Deaths per 100,000 population: 6.7
Number of deaths: 10,062
Deaths per 100,000 population: 3.2
Number of deaths: 6,637
Deaths per 100,000 population: 2.1
And we do attempt to restrict access to drugs that can easily be used for self-harm, don’t we? Time to do the same thing with guns, then, isn’t it?
most suicides attempts by pill are not successful. only about 25%.
its actually very hard to commit suicide by most methods.
and most people who attempt suicide, and live to tell about it, do so because they suddenly find the urge to live, and call 911, or help, or something.
Guns don’t have that option. There is no second chance when you blow your brains out, like there is with most other methods.
only 10% of all suicide attempts are successful.
but over 90% of suicide attempts using a gun are successful.
attempted suicides would still happen.
the difference is, most suicide attempts are unsuccessful.
only 1 in 10 (10%) of all attempted suicides is successful, across all methods.
** but looking strictly at suicide by firearms , the success rate is more than 90% !! **
so yes, fewer guns DOES reduce the number of successful suicides, quite a bit.
people who are suicidal will still attempt it at roughtly the same rate,
** but they will be successful LESS OFTEN **
You are right!
One cannot “skew” data that is all too inclusive.
Absent is the breakdown of those killed by cops, and those killed while committing crimes. That is correct, “justifiable homicide” is INCLUDED.
Missing in the suicide debate is the issue of the tool/weapon of choice. No gun, knife, poison, jumping, or other methods. Those who wish to kill themselves, will use many means.
Where guns have been removed form society, other implements are used to commit murder, look at the problem in Israel, “suicide knifings,” but who notices without guns or bombs?
It is skewed, but not for that reason. It’s skewed because a better and more accurate measure would be a year-by-year percentage derived from the ratio of people who have died from guns vs the whole population. The author forgets that back in the 18th and 19th centuries the USA had a much lower total population than we do now…so while less deaths may have occurred from firearms in the Revolutionary War, for example, there were also less people overall back then so the deaths likely still represented an extremely significant percentage of the total population…and I would wager a far more significant percentage than today’s figures. I would also wager that the skewing also comes from the figure likely including criminals who died from being shot by their would-be victims. I’m sorry but given a choice between using force of arms to fight back to protect myself and others from criminals and letting those criminals run roughshod over me, my money is on fighting back. Fighting back is the only effective deterrent. Sit there and cower in a corner and all you do is show the home invader that you’re a soft target who doesn’t have the gumption to fight.
Not necessarily skewed, but let’s put it in perspective, shall we? In 2013, we had:
Unintentional fall deaths: 30,208
Motor vehicle traffic deaths: 33,804
Unintentional poisoning deaths: 38,851
So that means that there most likely have also been more “unintentional fall deaths”, “motor vehicle traffic deaths”, and “unintentional poisoning deaths” (each individually) than deaths “on battlefields of all the wars in American history” as well? Oh… Inconvenient for the intended effect of this graphic, isn’t it? :/
There isn’t a “conclusion.” it’s just raw data.
It is “too” raw.
ALL seems to include data from deaths that could be ruled “justifiable.”
In many “gun-free” counties, the knife has supplanted the gun as a means of killing.
Evil intentions will thrive and use whatever devices are available.
My calculator says that 8,110,150 people were killed in war. 1,516,863 were killed by homespun gunfire, according to the graph above. Somebody’s lying, and doing a poor job of it. Must be an Obama-ite.
Sorry for the wrong numbers. Must have double clicked a number when calculating. The eight million figure is definitely wrong. My apologies.
In which case you should also apologise for the “Obama-ite” which has nothing to do with this discussion.
The interesting fact is that suicide rates are twice the homicide rate.
Also doesn’t compensate for gen pop size
@Hugh jass We are talking about human lives lost, not percentages of the population lost. Weighted analysis is interesting if you want to show the impact of wars on each years/periods, not the total of the individuals.
@J Jung Maybe, but it does not change the statistical fact: there was x firearm-related deaths in year x. These statistics do not count the kind of dead but their context or vector. Moreover, you know that the debate exists on the impact of the regulation of firearms on suicide (but discussing this question is not the role of the statistician).
Interesting study. I don’t see any practical use for the data, however. The comparison of firearm-related deaths among the population of the United States between a contiguous period of time from 1968 until 2015 vs. “total deaths” as a result of war for shorter periods of time among significantly lesser populations (directly affected by the conflicts) from 1775 until 2015, is irrelevant. You might as well compare the amount of rice consumed in Japan during typhoon season from 1775 until 2015 against the amount of rice consumed in China from 1968 until 2015.
This article is misleading, sensationalist and headline grabbing because it includes suicide deaths by firearms, which account for about 64% of firearm-related deaths. Also, the suicide rate is approximately the same for people who kill themselves with a firearm vs a non-firearms means – implying that if a person does not have access to a firearm, there is little stopping a person intent on suicide from doing so (like swallowing pills). If suicide deaths by firearm are excluded, the real figure of Americans who have experienced homicide by guns is a third of what is claimed – and therefore a third of the Americans who have died in wars.
To arrive at these figures, I used the tool referenced (http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate10_us.html) to find the following facts:
* From 2000-2013, there were 80k deaths from non-firearm homicide in the US
* From 2000-2013, there were 160k deaths from firearm homicide
* In this period there were 235k suicides by non-firearms .
* There were 253k suicides by firearms (64% of firearm deaths)
* US men kill themselves twice as much as women; and 4/5ths of suicides are by white people, which I did not expect.
* For comparison, motor vehicle related deaths in this period were 575k people.
I couldn’t find year on year data from 1968-2015 to break down suicide vs homicide gun deaths, but if we extrapolate the same suicide rate and gun-related death rate to previous years (and it seems from the bar charts that the firearm death rate is about the same), it seems that the 1.5 million figure cited = 32,000 firearm deaths a year (1.5M/47); and 36% of 32k = 11,000 people a year die from firearm homicides. Or, about a third of 1.5M.
This is not to say that more regulation of guns is not needed – one needs more regulation to register a car and learn to use one. Cars are weapons and guns are too. But lying with statistics is no way to sell the cause – it does the opposite – it undermines the cause. Let’s be honest.
Also, of all homicide firearm deaths, 139k (87%) of these deaths were men. Of these men, 55K (40%) were white, and 80k (58%) were black. One wonders why only 13% of homicide victims are women, but it seems to say something about the habits of women. After all, 90% of the prison population is male – that’s just a fact.
Men are “naturally” more physically aggressive. They also have traditionally been interfacing with the outside competitive world with all its inherent conflicts. Unfortunately, in this “dog eat dog” world they may not bite, all too often they shoot.
Cars are transportation and insured for the accidents that cause fatalities. Talk about skewing the facts.
It is not lying at all, however that is a common misconception. Suicide via gun results in an american death by gun. This article makes no claim that the data only includes homicides, and the title makes no such claim either. In fact, it would be a manipulation of the data to omit suicide by firearm after stating that the data includes all Americans killed by guns. While a suicidal person may well seek out other means without access to a gun, gun related suicides are known to have a much higher rate of success. Remember, gun violence is not limited to homicide.
. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, firearms (excluding BB and pellet guns) were used in 84,258 nonfatal injuries (26.65 per 100,000 U.S. citizens)  and 11,208 deaths by homicide (3.5 per 100,000), 21,175 by suicide with a firearm, 505 deaths due to accidental discharge of a firearm, and 281 deaths due to firearms-use with “undetermined intent” for a total of 33,169 deaths related to firearms (excluding firearm deaths due to legal intervention). 1.3% of all deaths in the country were related to firearms. copy and paste from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States
So when i look at these how many could be prevented gun violence by making a law that already has been made ??? Homicide is already illegal, suicide illegal but if no gun then many other options, 505 a very small % by accidental discharge is hunting accidents and we have the right to hunt our own food? Education of our children, and financial opportunity are the only things that will improve our situation.
This is directly from the CDC site you can’t get data from 1968 to present from the CDC, I tried and the latest it will go back is 1999. After I paste this text I will include the link on the CDCsite and the form where you can tinker with you own data statistics, all from the CDC website.
5.1.3 Data Element: Year(s) of Report
You can request an injury mortality report for data from 1999 and later or for 1981 to 1998. If you desire a report for a single year, enter the same year in both of the Year(s) of Report fields (e.g., 1997 to 1997). Be aware that selecting a large number of years at a time may require a long response time. Also, note that you cannot request a report for 1999 and later and any year from 1981 to 1998. The external cause of injury coding for 1999 and later years, based on the ICD-10 classification system, is notably different from external cause coding for 1998 and earlier years, based on the ICD-9 classification system. You may not be able to compare numbers of deaths and deaths rates computed for some external causes of injury based on 1999 and later data to those based on data from 1998 and earlier. Consequently, use caution when doing trend analysis of numbers of deaths and death rates across these years. For more information, see Data Sources.
CDC Link to fatal injury reports: search by cause, adverse effects, poisioning, ect.. http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/mortrate10_us.html
CDC Link sourcing the above text
Individuals or groups who choose to use statistics to support their point of view should provide all “credible” sources and relevant data to support the claim. Stop the fear mongering. Criminals will always have guns and break the law. Allowing responsible citizens who have had proper training and certification to open carry a firearm would create a visible deterrent and reduce armed violence. Predators go after the low hanging fruit, easy prey, they tend to move in small groups, and try to avoid direct resistance and confrontation so they remain unscathed for their next assault.
What a load of crap.
1) If the potential victim is more likely to have a firearm then the perp is more likely to have a firearm. Most criminals carry a gun for protection.
2) Many armed criminals do not think rationally especially as drugs and mental illness are involved, this means an armed victim is not a deterrent
3) If lots of people are armed when an incident happens then multiple responses by witnesses will lead to innocent fatalities. Being fit to carry a gun does not mean you are trained to make split second decisions in pressure situations.
4) For the same reason as 3, the more armed members of the public, the more likely there will be false positive reactions. That is shooting an unarmed person either a criminal who was not armed or a misreading of a situation. Such as a domestic argument interpreted as an assault.
5) The more guns are carried the more accidental discharges there will be either by the owner or by their children.
Look at the rest of the world my friend. Where else are they saying that to reduce gun deaths we need to increase the number of guns? It’s illogical.
Really look at the gun related death figures and compare them to the rest of the world. Every country has criminals, every country has mental health issues. The difference ifs the access to the gun.
The answer to this problem is to repeal the second amendment and confiscate all guns.
@kinsey6 like thats worked out for the good in the past http://www.mercyseat.net/gun_genocide.html
The Virginia “journalist” shooting was a hoax.
From someone who lives in Roanoke, VA: bullshit and shame on you!
It is so interesting to notice some of the allergic reactions in the comments. As if reducing the amount of people who died by a third (in case you don’t count suicides in),is reducing “the harm” done to the image of gun possession. It’s still a bloody bad amount of deaths in a country which doesn’t officially has a civil war. Of course, it’s a way of keeping overpopulation on earth a little bit under control, but that surely wasn’t the point to be made. Guns seem to be considered as a part of the body; so limiting access to it feels like chopping off an arm. But hey guys, wake up. A society without guns us one with more trust in neighbours and higher safety. After the revolutions in Europe, the possession of guns was forbidden. What’s the harm? The Hollywood movies with large amount of aggressive shooting scenes are adding to the gun indoctrination.
There is a little overlap in these two groups. Many suicides by firearm have been a consequence of war. Many returning soldiers come back with the brain/psychological injuries that end up in suicide (because the number is not irrelevant, one should think hard wether to count it on the war column, instead of the other.
The yearly graph in the bottom right is misleading in that it shows 2015 as a dip, as the year is incomplete. You should draw it 75% the width and 1/.75 the height to represent the average accurately (assuming that the data goes up to September; adjust based on how many days you have data for).
In a long-term perspective you’re right (if somebody find the graph in a few months/years), but do you really think that this is not obvious to the reader today? (I’ll consider adding a note to this last bar if this post is still read in a few weeks)
Just a few quick questions, how many gun deaths are from:
illegally obtained guns
I’m not trying to muddy the waters here but lumping all of these into the debate as one does skew the data. More laws for people who legally own or want to own guns is like making restrictions harder on all drivers to prevent drunk driving.
In the present day debate against private ownership of firearms on the premise that it endangers the safety of others, to produce such statistic that includes self-inflicted wounds (~70+%) is manipulative and serves no other purpose than to create shock value that has no logical meaning. It is no less manipulative than what the right wing marginal groups produce on various other issues.
First off, ~70+% is a gross inflation of the ~63% that is actually gun suicides. Secondly, the article addresses suicides as directly as homicides, and is inherently apart of gun violence itself. It is illogical to assume that gun violence via homicide is all that matters. If my statistics are right, and there is certainly room for error, ~500,564 deaths by guns are homicide since 1968 and ~955,623 gun deaths are self inflicted. ~15,168 deaths have been accidental. These statistics can all be grouped under gun deaths, regardless of the cause. It is hardly manipulative if the article itself mentions suicide as a factor.
Well, there already are a lot more restrictions on granting vehicle licenses than gun licenses. With regard to the earlier comments about suicide, it is disgusting to imply that suicide deaths somehow “don’t count,” as if those people’s deaths via guns are somehow less tragic. The United States has a unique issue with gun deaths, and a large part of the population has no interest in doing anything about it. That’s extremely sad.
All deaths are tragic, of course, but lumping homicides and suicides into a single stat produces logical nonsense. You can play on emotions, but it is superficial and lacks substance… then again would you have liked these suicides better if there were done by self-strangulation or jumping off bridges. How do they do it in France, actually, since they have fewer guns, but the suicide rate is astonishing? It is very easy to produce catchy emotional headlines like “Suicide count in France tops their WW-2 casualties”… or “French suicides top the USA gun homicides”..
The bottom line here — the United States is a country with its own distinct culture and traditions and populace that exercises their will. Feel sad not for the USA, cause I feel safer and happier here than most places and so do hundreds of millions of other people. I personally, feel sad about Europe with their old, stale, restrictive mindset… ban this, ban that.. it is very easy, indeed.. everything in Europe is harder to get done and more bureaucratic – in my experience, just lately – doing business, taxation, flying private aircraft, not to mention owning a gun… you have a different philosophy, this is great, but I love the USA, at least our suicide rates are lower, guns or no guns… and I can see why.
Suicide rate via guns is somewhere around ~90% successful. That is a pretty high mortality rate. Your appeal to American tradition is equally flawed. While I also love the USA, it is logically foolish to assume that tradition and culture is a strong enough argument against changing laws which may save more American lives. And that is the real bottom line: whether stricter gun regulations will decrease gun violence and save American lives. What makes America wonderful isn’t its past, but its ability to change and become better. That is why I love the USA.
We’ve been shooting each other longer than that.
The initial citation from Mark Shields on PBS: “since Robert Kennedy died in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968…”
BS, the CDC number for “Violence related” deaths by firearm is 12,483 per year. you selected “All Intents” to come up with 31,500. the CDC’s number for non-firearms caused violence related deaths is almost 24,000 a year.
This is a great visualization, but I have one concern: why weren’t the Americans killed during the American Indian wars included? The U.S. Bureau of the Census (1894) provided an estimate of deaths due specifically to war during the 57 years between 1789 and 1846:
“The Indian wars under the government of the United States have been more than 40 in number. They have cost the lives of about 19,000 white men, women and children, including those killed in individual combats, and the lives of about 30,000 Indians. The actual number of killed and wounded Indians must be very much higher than the number given… Fifty percent additional would be a safe estimate…”
Gun violence should horrify us enough to take action. Car crashes should also shock us enough to take action, with 2,023,521 deaths between 1968 and 2013. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year
No matter the reason this chart was created, it is being hailed as a rallying cry for gun control. People die in wars in a multitude of ways, sometimes including getting shot by guns. In the Civil War, research suggests more than half of the deaths were caused by disease. What value is there comparing these disease-caused deaths to gun deaths in America in the late 20th century, other than using the excuse some journalist made the dumb comparison so lets create a chart?
Note that a few will take this chart as an invitation to revoke the 2nd Amendment and “do something” about guns. I thought it would be interesting compare gun deaths in America in the late 20th Century with the amount of deaths caused by government itself in the 20th Century (not including wars). After all, if it is fair to compare these 1.5 million firearms death with non-related war deaths across the prior 150 years to generate sympathy for gun control, would it not be fair to compare these 1.5 million firearms deaths with those deaths caused by the very thing the 2nd Amendment was designed to ward off? Personally I hate the suggestion these 1.5 million deaths should be used in any comparison as if they are pawns to be moved on a chessboard, but I don’t make the rules. So here is the pro 2A analysis of this chart, adding a circle for people killed by their own governments in the 20th century. The 2nd Amendment is what protects Americans from having it happen to them, both today and hundreds of years in the future no matter who is President, what political party is in power, or how much disarming is desired by those who never study history.
Put those numbers in terms of European gun violence (WW1 and WW2), and Socialist/Communists regime violence. EU World wars. 100+ million. Socialist/Communist regime “gun deaths” (Those with the guns vs those without the guns) 140 million. Even with that over inflated number of 31K per year, more than half are suicides (the US rate for suicide is very comparable to Europe’s even though they have few guns) and they lump in civilians/police killing criminals, 1.3 million seems like a very small price to pay compared to the butcher’s bill the rest of the “gun free” world has had to pay.