Alcohol- vs. Firearm-Related Deaths
As gun-control measures come to ballots across the country many voters ponder checking “Yes” while sipping a glass of wine. Alcohol is enjoyed by millions of Americans daily. It’s nice to enjoy by yourself, it makes for great social outings, and is fun to collect. Some people even enjoying making their own alcohol at home. All the above activities are also used to create competitions where people can hone their skills and show off their prowess.
However, there is a small percentage of people who abuse alcohol, resulting in the death or serious injury of themselves and innocent bystanders. Some of this is even criminal, as in the case of DUIs and underage drinking. Alcohol is also a leading cause of domestic violence resulting in the abuse of women and children, sometimes resulting in death. Alcohol poisoning due to negligence, such as hazing rituals, is also becoming more and more common.
Just over 100 years ago the U.S. congress ratified the 18th amendment prohibiting alcohol. This effectively forced millions of formerly responsible, law-abiding citizens to make a choice. Do they give up their cherished pastime, or risk criminal charges to continue partaking in a hobby they still would like to enjoy? Those behind prohibition saw alcohol as a destructive force that destroyed families and marriages. They also claimed that people were effectively killing themselves through liver disease, and that hospitals were being overrun with alcohol-related illnesses.
Fortunately, for those who enjoyed alcohol this prohibition was repealed about 15 years later. Since then, there is a mishmash of laws across the country Federally, all the way down to city levels regulating alcohol. Sometimes people cross state lines, or stock up when they are traveling, to avoid the restrictions in their own hometown. Also, since 1972 there is been a government agency to regulate and enforce alcohol laws and restrictions, commonly referred to as the ATF.
Now, go through those previous paragraphs and replace “alcohol” with “firearms” and hopefully you see my point. Indeed, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (the aforementioned “ATF”) regulates both at the Federal level. I would next like to point out some of the correlations between alcohol and firearm related deaths.
According to the National Institute of Health, an estimated 95,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes. According to Giffords, a leading gun control organization, 45,000 people died from gun violence in 2020. That is less than half as many people who died due to alcohol-related causes.
In regards to self-induced death, compared to suicides by firearm, the CDC says that out of 100,000 adults, about 25 of adult males and 10 adult females die from self-induced alcohol-related causes (about 83,000 people). The CDC reports that 7.4 per 100,000 (24,292 people) died from suicide using a gun in 2020. (Note, this is all suicides from all genders and age groups, not just adults.)
The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration says that 28 people die each day from DUI-related accidents. This equates to about 10,220 deaths per year. At the same time, the CDC reports 19,384 gun-related homicides. Of course, the DUI number does not include any homicides caused by alcohol-induced rage or negligence that did not involve a firearm. (There is very little reliable data on this statistic that I could find.)
In conclusion, the numbers show even an even greater number of deaths can be prevented by banning alcohol. However, just because there are a few bad actors out there as far as alcohol use goes, it doesn’t make me want to go out and deny everyone something that they enjoy. So, as you drink your wine with your friends on your winery tour, and discuss any pending gun-control legislation, please keep in mind that your hobby is just as dangerous as mine.
As a social worker who regularly plies the waters of statistics, this has come to my mind many times. Well written! As I was poking around today, I also found this article, which isn’t oriented at the same conclusion but does has some good information at how much violence is aggravated by alcohol. We also know how much money is spent both at in advertising and in lobbying by the alcohol producers which is ridiculous in comparison to the gun industry.