Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

January 2014

Data is a plural noun.

Maybe that’s why data are so confusing.

Why bother loading up on a ton of stats when you can use your quick gray brain to leap to a conclusion based on datum?

Here’s the deal. You know that guns don’t kill people but bullets often do. There is a stampede of our fellow Americans attending gun shows. Walmart is the largest retail gun dealer in the world. In the U.S., it was reported in 2009 that there were 300 million guns in circulation.

Only on Law & Order do guns get thrown into the river. Generally speaking, guns last a long time, so I leap to my first conclusion that in 2014 there are now more than 300 million guns in circulation.

So what?

Well, gun deaths are counted and reported all over the world. London cops don’t carry guns, and gun-toting is generally not done over there. I am not surprised to learn that the number of gun homicides in the U.K. is relatively low — certainly lower than in the U.S. After all, civilization came to the U.K. centuries ago thanks to longbows, cavalry sabers, and knights. In the U.S., six-shooters and Winchesters won the West, whacked the buffalo herds, and brought peace to the Indian casinos.

Where else in the world do you find an abundance of gun toting? I’m going with Switzerland and Israel. Change planes in Zurich and all you see are guys with machine guns and kiosks selling chocolates.

Question: Would you be surprised to learn that in the U.S. there are more gun deaths from suicides than homicides? It’s true, according to the data I can find. Is it also true in the U.K.? Canada? Switzerland? Ireland? Israel? Mexico?

True everywhere but Mexico.

Gun suicides per 100,000 people are highest by far in the U.S. at 6.3, which is twice the Swiss rate. Canada gun suicides are third on my short list.

To me, the real stunner stats are that the overall suicide rates seem to be independent of gun suicides. The U.K. and Ireland report 11.8 suicides per 100,000 population as opposed to the U.S. total suicide rate of 12.

How’s that? You would be hard pressed to find a gun in the U.K. or Ireland but determined, depressed folks find a way to almost equal the U.S., which has a statistical head start given the propensity of guns in the home, car, office, shooting range, pawn shop, and Walmart.

Interesting to note that Canada and Swiss total suicides per 100,000 are 11.3 and 11.1 respectively.

Israel and Mexico share low gun suicide and total suicide stats.

Go figure.