Recently, a liberal friend of mine said that people who want a
gun for protection are just plain crazy. My friend’s argument
was that you’re a lot more likely to die in a car accident or
a fire. The likelihood that you’ll be killed by a burglar who
breaks into your home or a hoodlum who jumps you in a dark
parking lot, my friend said, are about the same as getting
struck by lightning. So thinking you need a gun means you’re
afraid of an unlikely event and are therefore irrational.
I disagreed but couldn’t quote any statistics to counter the
argument. And I had to admit, the idea of actually being
killed by a bad guy did seem pretty remote. But I got to
wondering what the odds really are, so I did a little
research. And what I found was startling.
The National Safety Council is a nonprofit public service
organization chartered by the U.S. Congress.
they publish a chart with the “odds” of dying
by various means. You’re probably familiar with the concept of
odds. If you flip a coin, your odds of getting heads are 1 out
of 2. If you randomly choose a card from a full deck, your
odds of getting the ace of spades are 1 out of 52. The lower
the number, the more likely it is to happen. The higher the
number, the less likely it is to happen.
One column in the NSC chart gives the odds of dying in a
particular way over the course of your lifetime. So, for
example, the lifetime odds of being struck and killed by
lightening are 1 out of 56,439. That’s a high number, so it’s
not too likely.
But according to the chart, the lifetime odds of dying by
assault of any kind are 1 out of 211. That means you have a 1
in 211 chance of being killed in an assault with a knife, a
gun, a beating, or by any other violent means.
And how does that compare to car accidents and fires? The
lifetime odds of dying in a car accident are 1 out of 228.
That’s right. The odds of being killed in an assault are
higher than the odds of being killed in your car. And the odds
of dying by assault are also greater than the odds of dying in
a fire (1 out of 1,471).
Some additional figures: the odds of dying in a plain crash
are 1 out of 5,704, in a water transport accident 1 out of
9,019, and by venomous snake or lizard 1 out of 1,241,661.
So here’s the point. Your odds of dying in a car crash are 1
out of 228 in your lifetime, but no one would say it’s crazy
to wear a seat belt. Your odds of dying in a fire are 1 out of
1,471, but no one would think it’s irrational to install a
smoke detector. And who would fault you for being a little
leery of traveling by plane or wearing a floatation device on
a boat or carrying antidote for snake venom if you’re hiking
in the wilderness?
And it’s not just your odds of being killed in an assault that
you should consider, because the odds of being beaten or raped
or otherwise injured are far higher since most assaults do not
end in death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and the U.S. Department of Justice, your lifetime
odds of being a victim of violent crime are 1 out of 2. Yes,
it’s a flip of the coin as to whether you’ll be the victim of
violent crime at some point in your life.
The way I see it, having a gun handy is just as rational as
buckling up or checking your smoke detector batteries.
Pragmatic people know that bad things can and do happen and
they take pro-active steps to avoid or survive those
situations. Having or even carrying a gun is just one of
hundreds of little things that responsible adults do to plan
for unexpected events, especially when those events have dire
consequences for those who are unprepared.
So it makes you wonder who’s really crazy—those who have a gun
or those who don’t?