Tuesday, March 18, 2008

DC or Iraq: Who Has the Higher Gun Death Rate? Don't Believe Everything You Read

Today I received this email that is making the rounds, no doubt due to the impending gun control case before the Supreme Court on Washington DCs handgun ban:

If you consider that there has been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theater of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,112 deaths, when this was written) that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers.

The firearm death rate in Washington D. C. is 80.6 per 100,000 for the same period. (...and that was while handguns were outlawed!!)
That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in the U. S. Capitol, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, than you are in Iraq.

PASS THIS ON 'cuz you can be sure that CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS won't!


Uh, yeah, we can hope they won't. Why? Well, doesn't it set off your BS alarms right away? Isn't it highly unlikely that any US city could have a mortality rate higher than soldiers in active combat? Of course it is. So let's check the math, shall we? We are given:

2,112 deaths (queue Rush, and I mean the band, not the dissembling dolt on the radio)
160,000 soldiers
22 months

vs

80.6 deaths per 100,000

Now, it doesn't take Archimedes to see that 2,112 deaths among 160,000 is going to be a far higher average than 80.6 in 100,000. In fact, it is 1,320 per 100,000, higher by a factor of 15 than the email claim. Even if you make the reasonable assumption that the 80.6 is an annualized figure, it only drops to 1,320 / 22 X 12 or 720 deaths per 100,000 per annum.

This is so indicative of what is wrong with American political discourse. First of all, we have people sending this note around that are apparently so innumerate that they can't even discern an error of an order of magnitude. Second, those who did notice ignored it and sent the note around anyway, because after all, in American politics, it's more important that your team win than it is to be honest.

Let's hope the gun control issue is decided using better and more honest analysis than that.

8 comments:

Dave on numbers said...

If You would read the facts, you would see that they are citing FIREARM (guns) deaths in Iraq and washington D.C. not total deaths from from bombs ect.If you check the facts on total( the whole population) deaths in Iraq compared to Washington D.C. total deaths on a percentage is only a few pecentage points higher in Iraq.

Crystal said...

Finally my statistic homework pays off.


If you consider that there has been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq Theater of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2112 deaths, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000. The firearms death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000. That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in our Nation's Capitol, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, than you are in Iraq. Conclusion: We should immediately pull out of Washington D.C.

ok 160,000 troops and total of 2112 deaths this mean we need to find a percentage of deaths over troops and divide. 2112/160000=0.0132 now we are saying 100,000 people instead so multiple the percentage of deaths 0.0132x100,000 =1320 approximately deaths in Iraq in 22 months.

Now..

The death rates for Washington DC are actually wrong.
From 1981 to 2000, firearms were involved in 354,540 suicides, 281,904 homicides, and 27,470 unintentional shooting deaths. 663914 from 1981 to 2000 or 19 years. We should probably subtract for suicides though because we are trying to determine senseless deaths due to a war zone. so 663914-354540= 309374 for 19 years. So Lets find out home many that is a month. 19x12= 228. 309374/228=1356.90 x 22 months= 29851.87 so round to 296852 deaths in 22 months. The population of the Washington DC metro area according to the United States Census Bureau is 5,300,000. That is 5.3 million people however since we are talking about 2000 deaths we would have to reduce the amount of people by 5.7 percent according to growth changes in the region so 5,300,000 x 0.057=302100 reduce the 5,300,000 =4,997,900 people in 2000. Then lets take the deaths and divide to find the average deaths per person. 296852 deaths divide by 4,997,900 = 0.0593953 times 100,000 people just like before 5939 compared to 1320 divide to find the percentage. .222 or 22 percent more likely to be killed in Washington then in Iraq, however if you factor in the fact that Washington had 4,997,900 people living in the area in 2000 and Iraq has 28,221,180 people living in 271,600 sq miles and 4,997,900 living in sq 553 miles you would understand the death rate is higher in Washington because there is 9037 people per square mile rather than 104 people per square mile in Iraq.

I hope this clear up any misunderstandings...

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2002). National
Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 50, No. 15, September 16, 2002, p. 44.

PatchCR said...

crystal,
I want to call into question you use of Washington DC deaths, washington dc metro area population, and Washington DC square mileage?

These populations are not consistent and I urge you to double check assumptions about the DC metro area.

Anonymous said...

There is no way on God's green earth there have been 200000 murders in DC over 19 years equals over 14800 murders a year or around 40 murders a day. that is absurd. in 2005 there were 12352 total shooting homicides in the United States.

Anonymous said...

This is TOTALLY unsubstantiated and has been floating around the web since AT LEAST July 2007. I'd love to see the article in the "magazine". Some people believe ANYTHING in an email, especially those with >>>>>>>> before each line.

Anonymous said...

From 1981 to 2000, firearms were involved in 354,540 suicides, 281,904
homicides, and 27,470 unintentional shooting deaths.

Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2002). National
Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 50, No. 15, September 16, 2002, p. 44.


These numbers are valid for the entire United States, not for Washington D.C.

cwjuhl said...

Crystal, I think you may need to ask for a refund on that statistics class yoiu say you took.

Anonymous said...

Crystal, I really appreciate the effort you took trying to get the whole story, but your numbers seem a bit off.

The most glaring to me is the "19 years". 1981 - 2000 is 20 years, not 19. Because of this error, your numbers are skewed from the start, even if all the other math was correct.

Anonymous also makes a point about the report you sited (and thank you for siting, it's not done enough) that those numbers are for the US, not just DC.

I'd really like to see this reworked with better numbers, as I would find it very amusing if this claim were true.