The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that Americans are now statistically more likely to be killed by a gun than in a car accident.
The Economist reported Friday that death by cars in this country is on the decline. Safety technology continues to improve, states and municipalities have enacted tougher seatbelt laws and fewer young people are driving, which means that streets and highways in the U.S. are safer than ever.
Deaths by gunshot, however, are on a slight increase in the U.S., meaning that currently, Americans are slightly more likely to be killed by bullets — whether through suicide, accidents or domestic violence — than in a road accident.
The Center for American Progress released a report last year saying that soon the two lines would intersect for people 25 and under, but now the Bloomberg News has released its own numbers, which indicate that gun deaths have overtaken road accidents as a cause of death for the whole population, regardless of age.
The Economist said that there are nearly 320 million people in the U.S. and nearly as many firearms. While the percentage of households that own guns has gone down, many firearms enthusiasts are buying up as many weapons as they can.
“Black Friday on November 28th kicked off such a shopping spree that the FBI had to carry out 175,000 instant background checks (three checks a second), a record for that day,” the magazine reported, “just for sales covered by the extended Brady Act of 1998, the only serious bit of gun-curbing legislation passed in recent history.”
Meanwhile, thousands of guns change hands at gun shows and in online sales each year without the benefit of background checks or government oversight, meaning that a large portion of the guns currently in circulation are in the hands of people who would otherwise be unable to legally obtain them.
William Vizzard of criminal justice at California State University at Sacramento told the Economist that these weapons are likely to remain in circulation and off the radar for a generation or more.
“I compare a gun to a hammer or a crowbar,” he said. “Even if you stopped making guns today, you might not see a real change in the number of guns for decades.”