Guns Kill More Americans Than Terrorists Do | WIRED

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President Obama, in a heartfelt response to the nation’s latest mass shooting, called on journalists to compare the number of Americans killed by gun violence and the number of Americans killed by terrorism.

The results? It’s not even close. In a recent 10-year period, guns killed more than 112 times as many American citizens as terrorists did.

But we thought we’d take a deeper look. Of course guns kill more people than terrorists. A lot of things kill more people than terrorists, and heart disease is far and away the biggest killer. But the government’s priorities on funding preventative measures don’t always correspond with the country’s biggest threats.

Lets look at guns first. Firearms killed more than 346,681 people between 2003 and 2013, the last year for which numbers were available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the same period, terrorist attacks killed 312 US citizens, according to data from the US State Department and the Council on Foreign Affairs.

That’s an average of 28 people a year. Compare that to the average of 31,516 gun deaths each year. In 2013, guns killed nearly twice as many people in the United States as terrorists did worldwide. And of those gun deaths, many—more than half in 2013—were suicides, not homicides.

Now, terrorists use guns. And that’s where the data get complicated, because there isn’t always a clean division between gun violence and terrorism. According to the State Department, terrorism is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents….” But the CDC classifies all gun deaths together in one category. There’s no separate “gun deaths from terrorism” column in their annual data report, and if there were, it wouldn’t rank among other common causes of death.

But even with all those caveats in mind, the President made his point, and the data support it.

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