Putting gun violence in context — in 1 amazing chart

February 15, 2013

Gun control legislation continues to work its way through Congress, but passing a bill that will actually affect what kinds of guns and ammunition people can buy remains well short of a certainty.

The fact is that, while the nation mourned our losses after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and some kind of legislation (background checks, for example) seems likely to pass, gun violence quite simply isn't an immediate concern for the vast majority of Americans. There are many reasons for that, but a major one is because it has never touched them in a direct way.

The Economist has put together a great chart illustrating that fact. While guns are surely one of the leading causes of death in the United States, the odds that any one person will be killed by a gun in any given year is 1-in-25,000. And the vast majority of those deaths happen in relatively small urban areas, leaving the vast majority of Americans even less likely than that to be touched by gun violence.

Politics is very much about self-interest. (Cue the "BREAKING NEWS" banner!) In order to get people interested in an issue, you have to convince them that it affects them. If they don't believe that, they are much less likely to get involved.

Couple the fact that gun violence won't touch most Americans with the fact that millions of Americans who own guns believe they would see an immediate and personal impact if gun control measures pass (i.e. not being able to buy certain guns or ammunition magazines), and you begin to understand why we stand where we stand on guns.

Click on the image below for the full graphic:

EconomistDeaths
Click on the image for the full chart from Economist.com
Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Aaron Blake · February 15, 2013