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Stolen Years
March 15, 2013 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Using potential life expectancy numbers from the World Health Organization, Periscopic has created a beautiful, if depressing, visualization of the lost years resulting from gun deaths in the United States in 2010, and 2013 so far.
posted by quin (53 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Simply outstanding and eloquent in its display. Thanks, from a firm believer that guns do in fact kill people, particularly people with guns. I have yet to read about a person dying from a gun in the absence of a gun.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:36 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the second thing I'd like to do is to adapt this for automobile related deaths.
posted by straw at 10:45 AM on March 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Even though I'm well aware of the numbers, I still had to fight back the urge to yell "stop" at the screen as it kept rising.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:46 AM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wish that the names could have kept displaying, although, obviously, too fast to read.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:47 AM on March 15, 2013


I too would like to see this for many different causes of death. Like, pedestrians and cyclists killed by automobile drivers. And, hey, why not: automobile drivers killed by pedestrians and cyclists. We should keep it fair.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:50 AM on March 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


A few years ago I had a friend killed in an automobile accident involving a drunk driver. He was 24. He could have lived to be 86.
posted by Sarcasm at 10:55 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really beautiful and really depressing.

Gun deaths in 2010 of those under 18 made up 11% of the total. 32% of people killed were killed by someone known to them.

WTF, us.
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


So the problem with this is that the WHO data presumably also accounts for gun deaths, correct? If these are the numbers that skew the life expectancy then putting up the exceptions against the norm is, of course, going to send a powerful message because it's a kind of statistical exaggeration.

It is powerful but it isn't the kind of data that would ever be used (or should ever be used) to prove a point, at least if there are to be serious legal and moral consequences as a result of the argument.
posted by dubusadus at 10:57 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


_______________________ .
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:58 AM on March 15, 2013


Beautiful and depressing.

Some of those life expectancies are weird, presumably because statistics. Sure, I get how a healthy 93-year-old who got gunned down might be expected to live to 98, but how do you a figure a random 29-year-old was going to live to 99? Or a 15-year-old was only going to live to 19? Presumably they're picking random life expectancies from a distribution and so you end up with those oddball cases, which stick out in the plot visually.
posted by gurple at 11:03 AM on March 15, 2013


gurple: "Some of those life expectancies are weird, presumably because statistics. Sure, I get how a healthy 93-year-old who got gunned down might be expected to live to 98, but how do you a figure a random 29-year-old was going to live to 99? Or a 15-year-old was only going to live to 19? Presumably they're picking random life expectancies from a distribution and so you end up with those oddball cases, which stick out in the plot visually."

Life tables can get very detailed depending on who's producing and consuming them. Not just a random 29 year old, but (ex) a 29 year old hispanic male in a particular zip code, with parents from a particular background, with a particular education.
posted by boo_radley at 11:09 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've personally known more people killed by cars than guns. I've personally been injured by cars more than I have been by guns. Graphs like this just lead this discussion of violence around in the same circle it has been going in since before I was born.

Mental health, drug laws, and modern 'indentured servitude' of illegal immigrants. Get at the weed of violence at its root.
posted by The Power Nap at 11:14 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've personally known more people killed by cars than guns.

It's even for me, one and one. But I know a whole lot more people who drive to work in cars than in guns.
posted by gurple at 11:22 AM on March 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


From the sources and methods link, it looks like 2010 is homicide only, but 2013 is suicide & homicide. The age of death is based on general stats about death in a given age bracket (year of birth only factor?) not a specific life expectancy based on other demographics.

I'm kind of interested in how we'd model how many of the homicide and suicide victims would've died by other means in the absence of guns. I believe guns contribute to additional deaths by encouraging the impulsive, but we do have a higher per-capita incidence of non-firearm homicides than most OECD countries as well. I'm guessing there are other cultural factors we need to identify, but I guess it's possible that increased access to firearms somehow increases the likelihood of violence by other means as well.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:34 AM on March 15, 2013


Of course, these years lost to gun deaths seem bad if you believe these people deserved a long and rich life. However, from much of the rhetoric from gun hardliners I suspect their reaction would be a) most of those people were "bad" people and b) guns save kids. Particularly kids.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:38 AM on March 15, 2013


MuffinMan: "Of course, these years lost to gun deaths seem bad if you believe these people deserved a long and rich life. However, from much of the rhetoric from gun hardliners I suspect their reaction would be a) most of those people were "bad" people and b) guns save kids. Particularly kids."

One of the idle mind projects I have is a site called "PATRIOTORTYRANT.org" that would just show images of dead kids and ask the viewer to choose: Patriot? or Tyrant? In which way did this child's death water the tree of liberty?
posted by boo_radley at 11:43 AM on March 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


So the problem with this is that the WHO data presumably also accounts for gun deaths, correct? If these are the numbers that skew the life expectancy then putting up the exceptions against the norm is, of course, going to send a powerful message because it's a kind of statistical exaggeration.

It's not an exaggeration, because the effect you're thinking of skews the data in the other direction. If you removed the gun deaths from the data, the mean life expectancy would increase. By using the observed life expectancies with gun-related deaths included, they're actually slightly underestimating the "years lost" count.
posted by kiltedtaco at 11:52 AM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


When PolitiFact fact-checked the Doonesbury comic about gun deaths, the statistics showed:
• Suicides: 102,002 between 2002 and 2007
• Homicides: 73,148 between 2002 and 2007
• Accidental: 4,185 between 2002 and 2007
• Legal shootings: 1,999 between 2002 and 2007
• Undetermined: 1,427 between 2002 and 2007
-- Total: 182,761 between 2002 and 2007
So more than HALF of all gun deaths are suicides, which tends to suggest that the Gun Death Problem is at least partly a "self-correcting" one since so many gun owners are taking themselves out. It also suggests that a larger percentage of that group would likely have used other means than accidents or even homicides, although not necessarily as successfully (filling less morgues and more emergency rooms). But when you start analyzing such things, that way goes madness.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:53 AM on March 15, 2013


Mental health, drug laws, and modern 'indentured servitude' of illegal immigrants. Get at the weed of violence at its root.

Oh how I despise this argument. Hey, let's hope for societal change so that we can have guns. Let's have a perfect society, and then nobody will kill anyone else!

This is the argument of a moron, or a troll.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:57 AM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


32% of people killed were killed by someone known to them.

It was my understanding that such a figure was actually far higher, 50% or more.

I see that checking all the relationship boxes (for the 2010 figures) at once - stranger, acquaintance, significant other, family member - brings the filtered total to just 49%, so 51% of the deaths tabulated here aren't assigned to any of those relationship categories. Perhaps no relationship is assigned if the perpetrator isn't caught.

So maybe another way to look at the number is: In about two thirds of gun murders where the perpetrator is discovered (3,105 of 4,727), the victim knew the murderer. Maybe that's the figure I was thinking of.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:57 AM on March 15, 2013


tends to suggest that the Gun Death Problem is at least partly a "self-correcting" one since so many gun owners are taking themselves out.

That's a completely illogical conclusion, unless your null hypothesis was that there was a small number of people each responsible for a large number of murders. If you treat gun deaths of any sort as "the problem", it's nowhere near "self-correcting".

It also suggests that a larger percentage of that group would likely have used other means

The data you showed don't say that.
posted by kiltedtaco at 12:03 PM on March 15, 2013


I've personally known more people killed by cars than guns.

And cars still kill more people than guns (except in Colorado), but maybe not in a few years. Although gun deaths are rising slowly, it's predominantly because car travel is getting safer.

I've personally been injured by cars more than I have been by guns. Graphs like this just lead this discussion of violence around in the same circle it has been going in since before I was born.

I would speculate that a car injury is less likely to be fatal than a gun injury-- low speed collisions between two cars, collisions with air bags, etc., all have a high chance of producing some non-fatal injuries. Only very serious car accidents have a high fatality rate-- cars are specifically designed to minimize lethality. That's not the case for guns.

I think it is worthwhile to compare guns to other things that kill people, but include the costs and benefits from both. Personally, I think private car ownership provides a lot more benefits to society than private gun ownership. People are welcome to debate that point.
posted by justkevin at 12:10 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meh, it's a nice appeal to pathos but statistics don't work that way. The average life expectancy of a particular person within a demographic group, if it comes from any decent source, would already include their odds of dying by firearm, as well as all other causes. You could back out the gun-related deaths and see what it does to the overall life expectancy, but I'm guessing they didn't do that because the difference wouldn't be that dramatic in the aggregate.

Slightly off-topic: I was somewhat surprised to notice that per the CDC, Hispanics have the longest life expectancy (net of all causes of death) of any of the 'racial'/ethnic categories measured. See Table 7 in this PDF. Hispanics have a very slightly increased risk of death by firearm specifically (3.8 for Hispanics vs 3.5 for non-Hispanics per 100,000), and assault generally (5.7 vs 5.1) but a far lower rate of high-fatality diseases, e.g. cardiovascular disease (80 vs 286), and cancer (62 vs 210). Hispanics also have a lower rate of motor vehicle deaths (8.9 vs 11.9).

If we assume that most of the differences — at least those unrelated to disease — are due to urban vs suburban living patterns rather than underlying 'racial' differences (i.e. Hispanics aren't superior drivers while more prone to violence, or vice versa for non-Hispanics), then it follows that you are better living in a Hispanic neighborhood downtown, despite the risk of getting shot, than in a non-Hispanic suburban or rural neighborhood where you have to drive. The odds of dying in a car wreck in the 'burbs totally outweigh the safety obtained by moving there to avoid violent crime.

I suspect that would come as a surprise to many non-Hispanics living in car-dependent areas.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:13 PM on March 15, 2013


So the problem with this is that the WHO data presumably also accounts for gun deaths, correct? If these are the numbers that skew the life expectancy then putting up the exceptions against the norm is, of course, going to send a powerful message because it's a kind of statistical exaggeration.

I don't know what level of processing has been done behind the data, but if the statistical data includes gun deaths (and it's strongly implied these have been removed), then it's an underestimation, not an exaggeration.


It is powerful but it isn't the kind of data that would ever be used (or should ever be used) to prove a point, at least if there are to be serious legal and moral consequences as a result of the argument.


Lost life is an important variable to consider in public safety; while every death is worth grieving, it's not possible to design a society where nobody dies. We make tradeoffs in safety in any number of ways, and I don't know why that tradeoff -- since it involves something as precious as human life -- shouldn't be made in the most informed way possible.


So more than HALF of all gun deaths are suicides, which tends to suggest that the Gun Death Problem is at least partly a "self-correcting" one since so many gun owners are taking themselves out.

Many suicide attempts are a rash decision, and gun suicides would be prevented by less access to an easy and seemingly clean way to kill oneself. And in any case, just talking about proportions undermines the staggering numbers we are talking about; 4,195 people killed in gun accidents is almost a 9/11 and a half in five years, and for no purpose whatsoever. The 73,148 homicides in these five years handily eclipses the Vietnam War for US deaths. Something that reduced gun deaths by a measly 1% would be a massive gain for public safety.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:14 PM on March 15, 2013


Addendum, I just checked that stats and I should have said "except Colorado, Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Washington."
posted by justkevin at 12:15 PM on March 15, 2013


Does everyone keep a gun in their car?
posted by Brocktoon at 12:16 PM on March 15, 2013


Anyone who uses suicide numbers to push gun control laws is being disingenuous. They're pushing an agenda, not trying to actually discuss relative threats and costs.
posted by Malor at 12:23 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you Malor. That is a topic/category that needs to be a focus of our antiquated views of 'suicide.'
posted by notreally at 12:26 PM on March 15, 2013


Something that reduced gun deaths by a measly 1% would be a massive gain for public safety.

If it would be such a win to reduce gun deaths by 1%, as you say, then surely we'd be better off spending our limited resources on lower-hanging fruit, where that 1% reduction would be much larger. More people die from falls than non-suicide firearms causes. I bet you could easily achieve a 1% reduction in death rates due to falls with far more ease and less opposition than anything involving firearms.

Also, "a 9/11 and a half in five years" is really not that big a number in a country with 300+ million people. Mostly because 9/11 didn't actually kill that many people in the greater scheme of things, it just got a lot of press coverage and looms large in the American psyche. Dragging out 9/11 to push your political ends is a very G.W.-esque move; great if you want to justify disproportionate action, but not useful if the goal is reasoned discourse.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:27 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Powerful. Thank you.

I'd like to share something related I stumbled upon yesterday: What are the chances that you will die of old age?

Better than you might have feared. The probability of not dying between 15 and 60 is 93% in Canada, 92,3% in the UK, and 89,4% in the US. Quite a bit more if you are a woman. And it's rising quickly. (source: WHO)
posted by dnial at 12:29 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone who uses suicide numbers to push gun control laws is being disingenuous.

How so? Impulsiveness seems to be a widely acknowledged aspect of suicide, and removing or limiting opportunities to carry it through seems to decrease suicides. There was a recent post about how "The introduction of a limit on the number of tablets sold in packets of paracetamol has led to a 43% reduction in the number of poisoning deaths."
posted by rtha at 12:41 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you removed the gun deaths from the data, the mean life expectancy would increase.

Then that would be a better comparison, comparing the mean without gun deaths and comparing it to the mean with gun deaths and even then it wouldn't be fully honest. There are so many factors you would have to account for in order to make this a viable comparison. Who's to say that there aren't other factors that influence gun deaths like socioeconomics, that there isn't some other, primary cause than gun ownership? Who's to say that these people would have lived as long as they did accounting for these factors? It's easy to link this to Newtown or Columbine because they were all about the children of the middle-class but I seriously doubt that most of the gun violence done in the US happens as a result of psychopaths and happens to people who are well-off and who live in neurotypical, socially normative families of relative privilege.
posted by dubusadus at 12:52 PM on March 15, 2013


Odd or perhaps intentional that they use the iconic arc of artillery games to illustrate this.
posted by chavenet at 12:58 PM on March 15, 2013


The suicide thing is a red herring because there are many ways to kill yourself besides using firearms. Guns just happen to be a popular method in the US, but it's a popular method because they're available, not the other way around.

If you look at a list of countries by suicide rate, there are plenty of countries that have very high suicide rates that basically have zero or only very-heavily-regulated civilian gun ownership. Clearly, people there have figured out how to off themselves in the absence of firearms. I have no doubt that in the absence of firearms here in the US, those who want to kill themselves can and would take their cues from folks in other places.

Removing firearms from the equation might stymie people temporarily, which might produce a downward blip in the numbers, but since it does nothing about the underlying causes driving people to commit (or attempt) suicide, it seems rather likely that they'll revert to the mean eventually.

This is particularly true since it's now very easy to get information about suicide methods popular in other countries via the internet. While someone in a previous generation might have to make due with their own wits to figure out how to kill themselves, and might easily botch the job, today anyone can go online and figure out what chemicals to buy at Home Depot to produce almost instant death. (And on a personal note, having seen the aftermath of a successful H2S chemical suicide, I think it's probably better as a matter of public safety if people just continued to shoot themselves. The risk to uninvolved people is actually much lower that way.) Sealed-room CO poisoning is also pretty dangerous.

And that's completely sidestepping the question of whether "reducing suicides" is even an ethical goal in the absence of doing anything to alleviate the factors driving people to attempt suicide.

Also, whenever suicide comes up, people are quick to drag out the hypothetical teenager who impulsively kills themselves. In reality, less than 10% of suicides are under 25 years of age. More people 65+ kill themselves than teenagers (and by a large, 50+% margin).
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:07 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


chavenet: "Odd or perhaps intentional that they use the iconic arc of artillery games to illustrate this."

Yeah, I immediately flashed back to Scorched Earth.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:13 PM on March 15, 2013


I have no doubt that in the absence of firearms here in the US, those who want to kill themselves can and would take their cues from folks in other places.

It's nice that you "have no doubt" about this. I mean, you're completely wrong, you haven't read a single relevant study on the subject and there is a mountain of evidence showing that this is completely false. But, hey, you "have no doubt" so that's all that matters, right?
posted by yoink at 1:14 PM on March 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Here, by the way, is a good recent piece from the NYT on sucide and guns. The notion that suicidal people form a firm committment to self-slaughter and will pursue that commitment by whatever means possible has been disproven over and over and over again, and yet it remains something that people continue to trot out as received wisdom every time someone proposes trying to put some barrier in the way of easy access to self-slaughter (see, for example, any discussion of safety barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge).

If you have a gun in your house, it is an open invitation to every person in the house (and to regular visitors who know where it is stored) to end their lives in a moment of extreme distress. Removing the gun, or removing access to it, makes the chances of a successful suicide attempt occurring in that household significantly lower.
posted by yoink at 1:23 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


The suicide thing is a red herring because there are many ways to kill yourself besides using firearms. Guns just happen to be a popular method in the US, but it's a popular method because they're available, not the other way around.

It's a fact that guns make it easy and quick (relative to other methods), and this increases the number of suicides that will happen. Janet Rosembaum:
"In Israel, it used to be that all soldiers would take the guns home with them. Now they have to leave them on base. Over the years they’ve done this — it began, I think, in 2006 — there’s been a 60 percent decrease in suicide on weekends among IDS soldiers. And it did not correspond to an increase in weekday suicide. People think suicide is an impulse that exists and builds. This shows that doesn’t happen. The impulse to suicide is transitory. Someone with access to a gun at that moment may commit suicide, but if not, they may not." (link)
Edit: more specific citation: Experts: Restricting troops’ access to firearms is necessary to reduce rate of suicides (quotes the number as a 40% reduction instead of 60%, but in either case this is a significant number of lives saved.)
posted by knave at 2:08 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Flag and also move on, thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 2:40 PM on March 15, 2013


The Gun Report: March 15, 2013
posted by homunculus at 3:13 PM on March 15, 2013


FWIW, this was created by Periscopic, not Periscope. They're based here in Portland and from the people on their team that I've met, very sharp.
posted by turbodog at 4:05 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The suicide thing is a red herring because there are many ways to kill yourself besides using firearms.

There are many ways to murder spouses, lovers, relatives, and friends besides using firearms, too. Shall we discount all those murders for the same reason?
posted by Western Infidels at 4:50 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


So more than HALF of all gun deaths are suicides, which tends to suggest that the Gun Death Problem is at least partly a "self-correcting" one since so many gun owners are taking themselves out.

Assuming that it's the gun's owner who uses it, sure. It could be a spouse or a kid or someone else.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:10 PM on March 15, 2013


FWIW, this was created by Periscopic, not Periscope.

Shit. My bad, I totally missed that. Tags changed and I'll see if the mods can edit the post for accuracy.
posted by quin at 6:59 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Fixed! ]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:15 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


So more than HALF of all gun deaths are suicides, which tends to suggest that the Gun Death Problem is at least partly a "self-correcting" one since so many gun owners are taking themselves out.

Assuming that it's the gun's owner who uses it, sure. It could be a spouse or a kid or someone else.


There's also the fact that 5% of murders are murder-suicides (pdf) -- and these are often the most horrifying incidents. I think it could be argued that mass-shootings like Sandy Hook take a much large psychological toll on the country as a whole, especially on children, though I guess this could be blamed on "the media."
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:06 PM on March 15, 2013


Cool visualization, not very useful without context.

If you estimate that each cigarette smoked represents a loss of 11 minutes, and 303 billion cigarettes were sold in the US in 2010, you get 6.3 million years lost, or more than fifteen times longer than the years lost in 2010.

Anyone want to tackle "red meat" or "sitting on your ass watching tv / using the computer"?
posted by meowzilla at 8:20 PM on March 15, 2013


Still pretty sickening that it took a bunch of white kids in Connecticut getting shot up to make this a national issue. The really disgusting thing about it all is that banning "assault weapons" will do nothing to alleviate gun violence. Are any of our politicians talking about banning hand guns? No? Hmmmmm. So they want to try and ban "assault weapons" when they are only used in 4% of gun homicides because?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:15 PM on March 15, 2013


Actually the data from the fpp only uses rifle as a definition so that could be a bolt action and not even semi auto. So they are talking about banning the guns that are used to commit less than 4% of gun related homicides. And this is supposed to help who? The black kids getting shot up by handguns? This country is becoming more fucked up by the day. All these fucktards have accomplished is to scare a certain segment of the American populace thereby injecting a massive amount of semiautomatic rifles and ammnition into circulation. WTF? And they probably won't even get the AWB passed anyways. But hey the gun manufacturers are making a killing and if there's one thing America is good at it's keeping weapon manufacturers in business.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:26 PM on March 15, 2013


I see knave also posted a response but ... grah.

> Removing firearms from the equation might stymie people temporarily, which might produce a downward blip in the numbers, but since it does nothing about the underlying causes driving people to commit (or attempt) suicide, it seems rather likely that they'll revert to the mean eventually.

No it doesn't. It doesn't seem likely at all. It always annoys me when people make this argument. There seems to be some sort of common belief that if a given method becomes unavailable then suicidal people will spend lots of time and energy in finding alternative methods. There doesn't seem to be a basis for this belief other than "I have lots of motivation and energy to do stuff, and don't mind if it takes some extra time. This must be the case for suicidal people too."

People who are suicidal often are driven by an impulse and often don't have a plan B. Removing easy access to suicide methods is very effective when it comes to lowering suicide rates. There have been numerous cases where fences have been built along bridges (or similar) where the presence of the fence has pushed down suicide rates. Or see knave's comment about restricting troops' access to firearms.

Or let's take the UK as an example. When domestic gas became widely available the number of suicides by gassing rose while the number of suicides by other methods did not decline. There was an overall rise in suicides. In the 1960s there was a switch from coal gas (very lethal) to natural gas (much less so). There was a drop in suicide rates of close to a third. It has stayed there.

A suicide method is introduced which is available and requires little preparation. Suicide rates rise. The method is removed. Suicide rates fall.
posted by bjrn at 3:57 AM on March 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Don't you have anti-smoking laws and campaigns in the US? Road safety campaigns and vehicle-safety features and regulations? Or are these just another attempt to distract everyone from the fact that the US is in the world's top 10 rates of gun deaths, behind 9 developing nations with civil wars, slums and war lords all over the place, and ahead of several more in similar circumstances?

Gun owners love to carry on about vehicle deaths and health problems, but fiercely resist any attempt to apply the fixes from those problems to their own situation. Registration, regulation, licensing, public education and research are all actively opposed by the gun-manufacturers' lobby, and there are very few gun owners willing to stand up to the NRA in any meaningful way.
posted by harriet vane at 6:30 AM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, cars are deadly etc. And if I sell my car to someone, we both have to fill out paperwork that informs the state that ownership has changed hands - I am no longer responsible for this deadly machine, and Joe Schmoe is. But that's a bridge too far for guns and gun owners, apparently.
posted by rtha at 9:00 AM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]




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