What is Killing Americans?

Behind the Headlines, Death Stalks Us in the Most Mundane Ways


Well, This Sounds Like a Cheerful Blog Post

OK, you are right. Not the most cheerful conversation we have shared here. But bear with me a bit. This is worthy of a few words and a bit of reflection by all of us. I have some bad news to share. But the solutions are more readily in hand than one might hope. If we choose to use them. Read on, friend.

Local Media Tells the Story

Whoever said that variety is the spice of life had it right. That applies to reading as well.  I am a voracious reader. I hate the thought of missing anything I might have read. From ancient manuscripts to cereal boxes, I read it all.

As a result of my reading appetite, I check in on many sources. Among these are search engines and random searches in local newspapers around the country. In reading a fair amount of hometown news stories, I find much less discussion of our known killers, such as COVID 19 and mass killings by yet more mentally ill people who have no trouble getting a gun in this country.

Set all those aside and one finds two recurring causes of death in America on a large scale. We knew this intuitively, but when one reads the stories, often very personal, the facts really come to roost.

Guns Don’t Kill – People Do. Yeah, Right…

We all know that America’s rate of death by guns is astronomical. It is on a level unimaginable in almost any other country. And we often focus on the senseless mass killings that seem occur every day or so. As the president has said, it is a national disgrace.

This is not by any means to deny the now almost daily carnage of a mass or random killing attack. But in reading a lot of local news, I am reminded that most of those gun deaths happen in less spectacular ways. People get mad at each other and shoot. Robberies go bad and people shoot. Mentally ill people lash out and they shoot. Children get a hold of their parent’s guns and shots ring out. People commit suicide by gun in staggering numbers. People shoot themselves or others with startling frequency when cleaning guns.

We are awash in guns. This immoral surplus of weapons feeds all those deaths mentioned in the preceding paragraph. There is no one solution, but until we get serious about draining the supply, in volume and types of weapons, and make it harder for some people to access weapons, we will continue to die at terrible rates. We should be ashamed.

Cars are Lethal

If you don’t read a lot of local papers, you may have forgotten how many people die in traffic accidents every day. Cars have gotten a lot safer over the past couple of decades. Drivers – not so much. People exercise bad judgement. They have road rage. Many drive at night or in bad weather beyond their capabilities. They drive at an age beyond which they can do so safely. Still too many drink and drive. Many fall asleep at the wheel. They speed. They pass unsafely. The carnage is impressive, to say the least.

The technology for self-driving vehicles is rapidly maturing. Even with the still developing capabilities in hand, such vehicles have accidents dramatically less than vehicles you and I drive. You will increasingly see these vehicles in the very near future.

You will see them as long-haul trucks. As delivery vehicles. As busses. And as personal automobiles. Yes, there will be the occasional accident where the technology fails. For every one of those there will be thousands of accidents caused by a human.

The fear over technology failure is a fair thing to raise, but let’s get the parameters right. It is a bit like the kerfuffle over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Too soon to know for sure, but it looks like your chances of having a problem with it are less than 1 in 1,000,000. You are more likely to get hit by lightning or to win a lottery than have a vaccine problem. Meanwhile, the virus has a WAY better chance of killing you.  Do the math – get the shot when it is available.

So, too, is it with self-driving cars. The darn things work and are getting better all the time. We recently had an incident involving our sort of smart car that brought the lesson home. Someone turned in front of us in traffic at the last moment, with pretty good speed involved. I saw it but before I could reach the brake pedal, the care did if for me, sounding an alarm as it did.

We likely would have had a crash waiting on human reaction time. Sure made an impression on us, and this is at the low end of the safety technology now widely available. The sooner we adapt to these capabilities, the sooner the carnage diminishes to almost nothing. Seems a fair trade to me.

You Know the Score

 Cars and guns. What could possibly go wrong? A little standoff distance between we humans and these two inventions could save a lot of pain and grief.

                   Bill Clontz

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5 replies to What is Killing Americans?

  1. In every incident of a person being purposefully injured or killed with a gun there is a person responsible for it. The gun doesn’t discharge by itself. That being said, it is far too easy for irresponsible children and adults to access guns. it is also true that responsible people occasionally do irresponsible things. There are no simple solutions. Both mental and physical processes are involved. Disparate concepts of freedom, security, safety, personal responsibility, consideration of others, etc. are involved. Any action affecting one of these will affect others. One person’s highest priority will conflict with another’s. No easy answer. The only way I can see to move the needle is by small incremental steps with time for the adjustment to be assimilated or reversed if the actual result is unexpected and adverse.

  2. Bill, here’s a bit more reading material for you. It discusses the defensive use of guns by citizens against crime. The total for this, though the data is old, is somewhere between 500,000 and 3,000,000 times annually. This was examined by BHO and since he didn’t like the answer it wasn’t widely reported. While you are doing additional reading you might want to check the death statistics kept by the FBI. You’ll find one little interesting point that hammers are more frequently used to kill people than long guns typically reported as Assault Weapons. https://www.investors.com/politics/editorials/cdc-gun-violence-study-goes-against-media-narrative/

    • Jim, your comments are always welcome, and citation links are always a good thing. However, I have to share I don’t have much patience with attempts to minimize the excess of guns in this country. Our death by guns rate is absurdly higher than pretty much everywhere else. I don’t believe we are any sicker than any other country; its just too damn easy for anyone who decides they want one to get a weapon. Every other developed country has figured this out and the statistics speak for themselves. The article you cited is, I am sorry to say, a bit of a political screed, not serious journalism. It fails to mention that the CDC studies started under the Obama administration were never completed. The Congress specifically directed no funds could be spent to complete studies along these lines. Hammers are more dangerous than guns. Really?

      • I see you mind is already made up. Too bad.

        • Indeed. I find the evidence overwhelming , including living and traveling in other countries that simply do not have this problem. But always willing to look at substantive arguments.

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