Gun Data and the Importance of Getting the Facts Straight

Gun Data and the Importance of Getting the Facts Straight

Concrete statistics can lead to solutions and help the public better understand hazard risks.

Ken Kolosh is the manager of the Statistics Department at the National Safety Council.

Blog – Guns have been in the news a lot lately.

Media outlets across the country have been steadily reporting on guns, gun control efforts and gun rights following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that left 17 people dead.

Those reports – and the conversations that surround them – are important. But such dialogue can be misleading when the facts aren't accurately presented.

Take, for example, a recent online article that cites data about how often law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals. The information presented was attributed to the National Safety Council, but we don't have any record of those statistics ever being gathered or disseminated by our organization.

That's a problem, because when information is presented inaccurately, it can be difficult for the public to truly understand or debate the issue at hand. In the above case, we contacted the website to request that it correct its information.

The National Safety Council is a data-driven organization. Having solid statistics and knowing what they mean is critical to how we identify safety hazards on the road, in the workplace, and in the home and community. And it is by using those concrete statistics that solutions can be found to help protect us from those hazards.

Putting data into context can also help the public better understand certain issues.

After the recent Florida shooting and all of the related reporting, people might be extremely concerned about being killed in a gun-related incident. But the odds of dying from a gun assault or accidental gun discharge are lower than dying from a motor vehicle crash, opioid painkillers or a fall.

In fact, suicides accounted for 59 percent of firearm-related deaths in 2016, while 37 percent were homicides and about 1 percent were preventable/accidental. You can view more gun data on our Injury Facts page here.

We as a society need to prevent tragedies like the one in Florida from happening again, but disseminating incorrect data in no way will help with that effort.

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