Neil deGrasse Tyson, Guns, and Statistics

Neil deGrasse Tyson has a few tweets that have ended up upsetting the pro-gun lobby with some rather uncomfortable statistics …


9/11 had a huge impact, and the response was the US (and others) invading Iraq for some very dubious reasons, and yet when you compare the response to terrorism with the response to the ongoing tide of fatalities due to firearms, the contrast makes a very compelling statement.

Neil is quite popular on twitter, so as you might imagine, his tweet stirred up a bit of a storm …

Where did he get those numbers from?

I’m not sure, but his numbers do appear to be about right, especially when …

this year gun deaths are expected to surpass car deaths. That’s according to a Center for American Progress report, which cites CDC data that shows guns will kill more Americans under 25 than cars in 2015. Already more than a quarter of the teenagers—15 years old and up—who die of injuries in the United States are killed in gun-related incidents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Such Numbers nail it

Expressing an opinion regarding guns might not have much of an impact, but spelling out cold hard statistics does something quite different, it underlines the absurdly high numbers of gun related deaths, a number that is so high, doing nothing is simply not a rational approach.

In response to his tweet many have attempted to engage and debate, but in reply Neil has simply tweeted out more statistics such as this …


… and that statistic is indeed correct.

… and also this …


Is the above true?

Actually not quite, if you fact check, you discover that …

  • Gunfire deaths since 1968 = 1,384,171
  • Americans who died in all wars since 1776 = 1,171,177

… so the facts are, as verified by politifact, gun related deaths since 1968 actually exceed the number of all Americans killed in all wars since 1776.

I note that within twitter many are quibbling about the precise numbers for that last one, for example a debate about the inclusion of suicides. That however fails to address the issue, because without easy access to guns, those suicides might not have happened.

The numbers speak rather loudly because it all, both clearly and decisively, rubs the issue in everybody’s faces and screams out that it is time to cease saying that something needs to be done, and instead to actually do something.


There is actual data out there, we need not take action based on opinion, but rather on evidence. As an example we have …

  • Kaplan, Mark S.; Geling, Olga (May 1998). “Firearm suicides and homicides in the United States: regional variations and patterns of gun ownership” in Social Science & Medicine – Shows that gun ownership has a stronger impact on firearm suicides than homicides, and that reducing the aggregate level of gun availability may decrease the risk of firearm-related deaths.
  • Killias, Martin (1993), Del Frate, A. A.; et al., eds., “Gun ownership, suicide and homicide: an international perspective” (PDF), Understanding crime: experiences of crime and crime control(Rome: UNICRI) – shows that there are significant correlations between gun ownership and gun-related suicide and homicide rates

.. and there is lots more.

One needless death is one too many, but these numbers are quite frankly appalling by any measure.

One further observation, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is sometimes rolled out by some as the ultimate end-of-discussion card, but we should remember that the constitution can and has been changed over time, and that can happen again if there is good reason for doing so – so how many bodies will it take to convince the people that now is such a time?

It was supposedly done to enable citizens to protect themselves against tyranny, but the reality is that this defence has now itself become a tyranny.

1 thought on “Neil deGrasse Tyson, Guns, and Statistics”

  1. All of these numbers are meaningless. There is no way you can say that more stringent gun control measures would result in less gun deaths. It has not been the case in many places that have stricter laws. Also missing is the number of instances of self defense with firearms. Is it scientific to leave out half of the equation?


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