There were 2,626,418 deaths in the United States in 2015.
There were 33,736 traffic fatalities in the United States in 2015.
There were 33,594 gun deaths in the United States in 2015.
These are figured compiled by the Centers for Disease Control.
But they are only part of the story.
Drill down on the gun death numbers and you will find that 11,008 were homicides — including self-defense deaths — while 21,386 were suicides. Accidental deaths were 2,000.
Let me make it clear that we should do what we can to prevent suicides. That said given the movement in this country to allow people to commit suicide and that these aren’t deaths at the hands of strangers, the number we should focus on is 13,008 deaths that includes 11,008 gun homicides.
As for traffic fatalities there isn’t really a breakdown of how many deaths involved that are just of the driver that was driving alone and hit no other occupied vehicle or person. Assuming there were few suicides by car where no other vehicles were involved and a number were essentially solo affairs involving the dead driver in an accident involving no other people, that 33,736 death toll probably includes 30,000 give or take who died in a traffic accident that was neither truly solo or a suicide.
That means we have an almost 3 times greater chance to be killed in a traffic accident than from a gun fired by another. Toss in injuries with automobile accidents at 4.4 million and from guns at just over 100,000 for guns, and you can see the bigger problem.
Most gun deaths aren’t blamed on strangers while the opposite is true for traffic accidents.
The point is not to dismiss gun violence or undermine efforts for reasonable gun control laws.
Rather it is to point out we’re having political screaming matches over the wrong Boogeyman.
Your chances of being killed, maimed, or injured is much greater in Manteca driving, walking, or bicycling down the street than it is by a gun.
In 2015, Manteca Police Department dealt with two homicides and six traffic fatalities. The victims knew their assailants in the homicides that were both by gun. While there is no data easily retrievable short of going through individual accident, reports as to whether a fatality was the driver who caused the accident save for solo accidents, it is extremely rare when the drivers of both vehicles in a fatality know each other.
There were 77 aggravated assaults in 2015 within the city. Most were gang-on-gang violence. The rest were primarily domestic. Guns, knives, and fists accounted for the bulk of the weapons of choice. At least 77 people were injured. Compare that to the 189 in traffic accidents where one or more people were seriously injured enough to require being wheeled into an emergency room in Manteca during 2015. Keep in mind these involve only city streets and not the 120 Bypass and Highway 99 that is within the CHP’s jurisdiction.
Few — if any of the assaults — could have been prevented with proactive policing. None of the homicides could have been.
That is not the same as for traffic deaths and accidents where police issuing citations are an effective educational tool given they hit people where it hurts in the pocketbook.
Would having more traffic officers eliminate all accidents? No. Would it help make our streets safer as far as traffic safety is concerned? Yes.
Would having more police eliminate all murders and assaults? No. Would it help make out streets safer as far as homicide and assaults are concerned? No.
You could double the number of police officers and not made an appreciable dent in many felony categories. That’s because you still can’t station a police officer on every corner 24/7 or outside every home. You can’t stop crimes of passion. As for gangs and criminals, they aren’t going to stop being criminals or gang members. Given the penalty system now in place it is difficult to get many of them off the streets for a long period of time with murderers being the exception. The long-term solution is working to give kids choices, mentoring, and other diversions to reduce the flow of people into criminal activities and gangs.
It is clear we can do something about traffic deaths that could have a fairly immediate impact through enforcement yet that is not the same as with gun deaths. Not saying we should say “oh well” with homicides and mass shootings, but it would seem if we really want to make streets safer for our families we’d concentrate on stuff that we can change.
We all can be better drivers. And unfortunately it often takes police issuing as tickets — or pulling us over for warnings – to open our collective eyes.
At the same time, though, we devote an inordinate amount of time and energy while straining our vocal chords yelling at each other on how to reduce gun violence yet we are perfectly fine to eliminate behind the wheel driver’s education in public schools.
It doesn’t make sense.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.