Posted in: Politics

Domestic Gun Deaths Since ’68 Are Greater Than All Our War Casualties Ever

gun violence in US

Is Piers Morgan listening? Because it turns out that the greatest war the US has ever waged has been on itself.

PBS commentator Mark Shields dusted up some controversy when he claimed that more people have been killed by guns in the US since 1968 than in our entire, bloody history of war. Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, proponents of stricter gun control and advocates for keeping things the way they are have thrown out persuasive facts and statistics to back up their perspectives, but Shields’ assertion caught the attention of Politifact, which did some digging into the claim.

Made on the December 21, 2012 edition of PBS NewsHour, Shields (who is a liberal and a gun control advocate) told host Judy Woodruff:

“You know, Judy, the reality is — and it’s a terrible reality — since Robert Kennedy died in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in … all the wars of this country’s history, from the Revolutionary through the Civil War, World War I, World War II, in those 43 years…. I mean, guns are a problem. And I think they still have to be confronted.”

So is it true? Unfortunately, yes.

Through a comprehensive study of war-related deaths as published by the Congressional Research Service and icasualties.org (which provides Afghanistan and Iraq death tolls) Politifact was able to determine that 1,171,177 Americans have been killed at war since our nation was born.

Conversely, they pulled data from the CDC and FBI to calculate the total number of gun-related deaths in American since 1968. That number is 1,384,171.

A few important notes: When defining war-related deaths, Politifact used the broadest definition possible. Any and all deaths from combat were counted: Those which occurred accidentally, by enemy fire, friendly fire, landmines, grenades, the whole kibosh. For the domestic gun violence total, only gun-related deaths were counted, but those also include suicides and accidental deaths. One-quarter of firearm-related deaths are homicides, and Politifact didn’t specify whether or not police data (cops killing criminals) was figured in to their total.

However, since the domestic gun violence casualty count comprises only gun-related deaths, while the war casualty count includes any type of combat death, there’s a slightly more disturbing and hidden suggestion here.

The gun death count doesn’t include homicides by weapons other than guns, like knives, hammers, baseball bats, even bare hands, which increases that number dramatically. With that in mind, it might be more dangerous to live in America than it is to go to war for America.

So what can both sides do with this information? The left could easily use it as part of their rallying cry for greater gun control, but the right will inevitably point out that while the information is accurate, it doesn’t paint a full picture of the problem of violence. The data is true on its face, but factor in all other homicides. The number will spike dramatically, which the right will use to argue that guns aren’t the (whole) problem.

But if everyone could at least agree that violence is the problem, maybe we could get somewhere.

What do you think? Are you surprised that more people have been killed in America with guns since the 1960s than in our entire history of war?

Watch Shields and Gerson on Cabinet Noms, Gun Laws, John Boehner on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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3 Responses to “Domestic Gun Deaths Since ’68 Are Greater Than All Our War Casualties Ever”

  1. Louis Jahn

    What a Bull Shi$$ story. More people were killed by automobiles during the same period, are you ready to revert to walking? The real problem is lack of enforcement across the law spectrum leading to a so who cares mentality. Add to that Hollywood's and TV's handling of such issues and you have problems but not the end of the earth.

    There are probably 5-6 public actions that would dramatically lower deaths by gun fire as well as by auto but our permissive society would never allow them. Rather than teaching right and wrong we worry about "feeling good" or "feeling cool"; reverse the focus before attempting more stupid laws at controlling guns versus controlling social actions. BTW Switzerland has guns in almost every household and does not have the same issues.