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The Las Vegas shooting has dominated the headlines over the past week, and news outlets typically give gun-related deaths priority coverage. But, although shootings are newsworthy, that doesn't necessarily mean they have become more common.
A number of news outlets, using the National Safety Council as a source in published stories regarding the Las Vegas shooting, have misstated the facts. One of them cited the Council in saying people are more likely to die from an assault with a gun than in a car accident; another said death from an armed assault was 50% more likely than dying while riding inside a car, truck or van.
Both of these statements are misleading.
According to Injury Facts, the statistical report on unintentional injuries created by NSC, you have a 1:370 chance of dying from a firearm assault over your lifetime – far less likely than the 1:114 chance of dying in a vehicle crash. You also are more likely to die from an overdose or an intentional self-inflicted gunshot wound than from being shot by someone else.
At NSC, we believe that knowing the true hazards affecting us all is a critical first step to improving our safety. The Council is a data-driven organization. Having the right numbers and knowing what they mean is at the core of our approach to identifying the dangers most likely to affect us – and the solutions to protect ourselves from those hazards.
The Council's Safety Checkup tool, for example, lets people enter their age, gender, state of residence and occupation to receive a tailored report on the hazards most likely to impact them. The report also includes the hazards that could affect their loved ones, as well as tips to reduce their risk.
Being safer means being aware and prepared. This can include getting active shooter training, but research suggests you're better served by making a commitment to never drive distracted or to avoid certain prescription medications.
Violent death is a legitimate issue; close to 18,000 people died in homicides in 2015. But homicide was the 16th leading cause of death; the flu and pneumonia, comparatively, killed more than three times as many people.
What happened in Las Vegas was a terrible tragedy, and we as a society need to prevent it from happening again, but misusing statistics only increases the public's fear in the wake of an incident.