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Pro-Lifers Take Note: More Households with Guns = More Deaths by Guns

About 44,000 Americans died from gunshots in 2020… so I guess guns are only 9% as dangerous to Americans as coronavirus, and if we don’t need to do anything about gun violence, we certainly don’t need to take any heavy-handed government action to respond to a pandemic, right, Kristi?

Sorry—it’s easy to get confused when trying to apply logic to Republican “thinking.”

In 2019, South Dakota’s gun death rate of 13 per 100,000 people placed us at the national median for such grisly demises, tied with Ohio, Oregon, Utah, North Carolina, Texas, Florida, and Maryland. Our neighbors in North Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa, and Minnesota were less inclined to shoot themselves or each other:

"Firearm Mortality Rate, Deaths by State: Map," Governing, 2021.03.24.
Firearm Mortality Rate, Deaths by State: Map,” Governing, 2021.03.24.

According to Rand Corporation data published last April, South Dakota ranked sixth in 2016 for gun ownership, with 55% of households having guns. Montana, Wyoming, and West Virginia all top 60% on that metric, and Idaho and Alaska all exceed South Dakota’s household gun ownership rate… and all five of those states have more deaths by firearms than we do.

Among the ten states where guns do the least killing, seven have household gun ownership rates below 20% (Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and California). Minnesota and Iowa have household gun ownership rates of 39% and Vermont beats 50%, but they manage to keep their gun death rates below 10 per 100,000.

Crunch numbers from all 50 states and you get a correlation of 0.75 (that’s on a scale from 0, meaning no relationship, to 1, meaning invariably predictable positive relationship) between household gun ownership rates and firearm deaths per population rates.

These data support what we know from lots of past research: more guns mean more people dying from guns. A truly pro-life culture would recognize and respond to that fact with sensible policies and public statements to deprioritize gun ownership as an expression of strength and civic sentiment. But if you listened to Hidden Brain this week, you know South Dakota is an honor culture, not a dignity culture, where white men’s desire to prove their strength with a triggered phallic symbol is more important than respecting the inherent worth of each human life.


  1. leslie 2021-04-03

    Great “Honor Society” link. Our whole underlying value in white culture is honor—which is bogus. John Wayne b.s.

  2. leslie 2021-04-03

    White “honor” culture. For example:

    Sean Hannity responds to former speaker Boehner: “What’s up with all the crying John?”

    Boehner the drunken former GOP speaker/ACA “hitman” discovers a heart in retirement. But “John Wayne” tough guy Sean Hannity/Fox news spokesperson isn’t having it. SHAME. HONOR. Bullsheit. Get rid of Rupert Murdoch, his Australian boss. Get rid of the fallacy of honor/shame culture.

  3. grudznick 2021-04-03

    Car ownership has a correlation of dying in car accidents of .89.

    Cars and guns are both good tools.

    I’m just saying…

  4. leslie 2021-04-03

    No comparison. You are a waste of time. You are NOT just sayin’. An Assault Rifle. One bullet fired from an AR-15, M-4 or pistol is designed to tear off limbs or explode heart and lungs. Good tool for what?

    Lindsey Graham thinks he has to defend his home with one after Hurricane Katrina. On the border, Graham and Cruz are all armored-up on a Rio Grande Vietnam-style armed fast boat with M-60 machine guns mounted to apprehend immigrants who might be covid-positive, or have drug-filled “calves like cantaloupes”, or are rapists. 2nd amend fantasies. Misuse of taxpayers resources and military assets. Bonespurs all. Save it for a military Kim or Putin or Trump parade, grdz. Pick a side.

  5. bearcreekbat 2021-04-03

    In the modern world reality negates any claim that “guns are . . .good tools” for the private population. They are obviously useful for law enforcement personnel and in the military, but for everyone else not so much. Certainly in the era when people actually needed to hunt to obtain sustenance guns were not only good tools, they were essential tools for a large percentage of people. Likewise, when there was no effective law enforcement system guns were a useful tool for private individuals in preventing crimes.

    The claim today, however, that a good guy with a gun can stop a crime is pretty much a fiction as good guys with guns are more likely to be a cause of more death (e.g. suicides) and crime (e.g stolen or misused guns) than non-gun owners.

    The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

    David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

    “The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tells Here & Now’s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared. . . .

    The most often cited pro-gun “research” to the contrary apparently is from a 1995 paper by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. However, further study casts doubt on those conclusions.

    “The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” Hemenway says. “It’s a well-known problem in epidemiology that if something’s a rare event, and you just try to ask how many people have done this, you will get incredible overestimates.”

    In fact, Cook told The Washington Post that the percentage of people who told Kleck they used a gun in self-defense is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliens. “

    Today, we have evolved to the point in our gathering of food and law enforcement where guns have become an anachronism. They simply are no longer “tools” at all. Instead, they serve functions like: playing at target shooting: unnecessarily killing animals; touching and handling; displaying and showing off to our friends as collectible toys; and, as Cory notes, a physical manifestation of the owner’s “desire to prove their strength with a triggered phallic symbol. . . . ”

    I admit that I may be overlooking some rare or unique actual useful purpose for using guns as a tool, which perhaps another reader can identify, but at this point I can no longer imagine any private use for a gun other than as a toy and a plaything. And as the owner of several guns and someone who was raised with guns, I have some weapons that I wouldn’t want to give up, such as my grandfather’s 22 calibre pistol. But in today’s real world the simple fact is that the usefulness of guns as a “tool” has dissipated to point of virtual nonexistence, hence any argument that banning guns, especially including semi-automatic weapons such as ARs and AKs, would be banning a tool is purely fiction. Guns outside law enforcement and the military are nothing more than dangerous toys in this day and age.

  6. Donald Pay 2021-04-03

    Yeah, the good guy with a gun argument does not hold water. There are lots of good guys with guns, but that hasn’t prevented that many bad guys with guns from killing folks with guns. The US should be the safest place in the world, if that hypothesis was true. Still, Grudz is right from a statistical perspective. I suspect more deer are killed in states that have more guns, too, and more people are killed by pesticides in states that apply a lot of pesticides.

    I think there is something to the argument more because of the psychology of some of the people who possess firearms. Some, not all, seem to be paranoid or scared people. Some seem to be preoccupied with their lack of power over others. Some folks who own guns seem to lack control over their emotions. That’s true of others who don’t own guns, too, but they don’t have access to a lethal weapon when they lose control of themselves.

    Some tools, like cars, are registered and drivers must be licensed and properly insured. I like Grudz’ car statistic, because we regulate drivers. I think he made the argument that guns and drivers need more regulation.

  7. mike from iowa 2021-04-03

    Marton Morrison was a racist who believed in white scumacy.

  8. bearcreekbat 2021-04-03

    Perhaps guns can function as a “tool” to help calm people who are “paranoid or scared” or “preoccupied with their lack of power over others,” somewhat like Prozac. I admit I had not thought of that – thanks Donald.

    Also, considering the danger of death and injury that guns create, which is similar to the danger of death and injury potentially caused by cars (especially in the hands of folks like SD’s current AG), registering, training and licensing potential gun users like we do with potential drivers does make sense.

  9. o 2021-04-03

    The only thing that stops the Corona virus is a good guy with a gun?

  10. cibvet 2021-04-03

    Had the conversation about 4 days ago as the neighbor said he needed a firearm to shoot back in case he was in a supermarket where someone was shooting. I reminded him that it didn’t work out to well for a trained professional who had a firearm, so why do you suppose, YOU, as a 73 year old, think your odds would be better than his? No answer.
    FYI. In this country for 65 years I have enjoyed shooting paper, hunting, butcher and eat what I kill, but have never owned a semi-automatic firearm. There is no need for any semi-automatic firearms other than the feeling of power with the trigger pull.

  11. mike from iowa 2021-04-03

    What is the mortality rate for gunshots if covid is only 1%?

  12. Mark Anderson 2021-04-03

    Oh Grudz you good tool. Its perfectly ok with me that your much more likely to die if you have guns in your home. Live with it folks, I left mine in So Dak when we moved to Florida. I’ve wiped out hundreds of ducks, thousands of Prairie Dogs, millions and billions and trillions of targets, sorry I got Wanda Gag’ed away there. Nothing wrong with guns but the kind people buy now are not made for hunting anything other than men or women. It will continue to get worse and luckily I’m way past being a closing time boy so that doesn’t bother me so much. Its just so easy for any loser to buy a gun and go crazy and carry it anywhere, unless their black of course, but thats another story.

  13. Arlo Blundt 2021-04-03

    well…I tend to agree with Mark…there’s a whole “automatic weapons” subculture now…the post supper hour around here is a free fire zone as the folks take to the backyard to squeeze off a few clips. 99% fall into the classification of “conscientious sportsmen” but, even in the small town I live in, we have “unfortunate incidents”….a young woman with mental health problems and an AK gets in a gun battle with the local deputy…over 100 shots fired, both wounded, two young men visit a bar after firing off some rounds out of a Glock, they run into an old friend, the sportsman shows him his Glock, and it goes off, shooting his friend right off the bar stool. A young man gets in a argument and leaves a house to “cool off” by walking home. He’s carrying a weapon. As he walks down a gravel road he’s stopped by a deputy. Its unclear what happened next but shots are fired by the deputy and the young man dies in the hospital. Its the price this small town has paid in just the last few years.

  14. grudznick 2021-04-03

    That fellow in the bar would not be called a “sportsman” in grudznick’s book, Mr. Blundt. He’s just an irresponsible shootist.

  15. Jenny 2021-04-04

    Another thing the SD GOP has contributed to negatively. What you have ammosexual legislators and governors voting lax gun laws in every year, protections to the public lessen. Thank your GOP legislators and GOP goveror for your high death gun rate, SD.

  16. leslie 2021-04-04

    So 2nd amend gun nuts HAVE gotten a little off the track of the benign SD “sportsMEN using a tool for the hunt” as he grew up as a widdle boy taught by daddy to honor the sanctity of a properly maintained gun to kill birds, squirrels and what not? That of course was once what NRA was all about. Like Boy Scouts before pedophilia, eh grdz? The democratization of grdz the troll:

    1. He now hates (his word) Trump

    2. He now realizes the bastardization of sacred Scalia gun regulation by militarization of sporting guns as a tool for a “well regulated militia” in defense of the nation. Republican farce!

    This is the last time you get any free mileage from me. @CITeam_en

  17. leslie 2021-04-04

    AR-15, ten 30-round magazines into Sandy Hook Elementary. In just four minutes … shot 154 bullets, killing 20 children and six educators.

  18. mike from iowa 2021-04-04

    What did you guys do with ex-Marine, Jerry? He has been silent for some time.

  19. grudznick 2021-04-04

    Mr. mike, I realize you speak Iowegian which is a Dutch blend of the Norwegian most South Dakotans are used to, but who is this Jerry to whom you type, and which ex-Marine are you concerned with? Do you mean Mr. Nelson, the EX-Marine formerly but no longer a marine who really liked guns? A couple of Conservatives with Common Sense stopped by his “farm” the other week to see if he’s back on his feet but they were shoed away by his daughters.

  20. mike from iowa 2021-04-04

    Back away frtom the ledger, Grudzilla, and explain to me which part of Stace Nelson contains the name, Jerry.

  21. mike from iowa 2021-04-04

    Back away from the ledge, Grudzilla, and explain to me which part of Stace Nelson contains the name, Jerry.

  22. grudznick 2021-04-04

    Mr. mike, you are from Iowa, not South Dakota, so I understand you needing to blog at me twice to feel you’ve gotten through with your thick Dutch accent, but you have not. It is not my job to straighten your drunken Easter ass around, but go read this up a few bloggings:

    mike from iowa
    What did you guys do with ex-Marine, Jerry? He has been silent for some time.

  23. Stuart McFarlane 2021-04-07

    It amazes me how many people think AR stands for assault rifle and how many think these are special guns of some sort. You do know to be an assault rifle, it has to be fully automatic which is illegal. Of the 44,000 deaths, 24,000 more than half, were suicide. So blaming a mental health issue on guns is just a left wing attempt to make guns look bad. I am not in that situation luckily, but I would dare say if you are inclined to take your own life and a gun is not available you would find another method. Not sure why I still read any of these posts where the 9 Democrats in SD all come together to try make each other feel like they are right on all these issues. This will be my last post as I will remove myself from this list. I like to try see how the other side thinks, but it is so far out there on most issues that nothing here is worth reading anymore.

  24. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-04-07

    It amazes me that people think trivia about gun abbreviations represent a valid argument against valid social science and the obvious threat that mostly useless guns pose to life.

    I would dare say, and the science plainly says, that there are fewer successful suicides when people have less access to guns.

  25. mike from iowa 2021-04-07

    I like to try see how the other side thinks, but it is so far out there on most issues that nothing here is worth reading anymore.

    The other side….magats…don’t think. They get told what to say so they stay on message. If you believe drumpf lost the election due to fraud, you are a magat of the fifth essence.

    If you think guns built on assault rifle platforms aren’t assault rifles you should stick with Doctor Seuss stories.
    Besides, ARs are outfitted to limit full fire capabilities with single and three round bursts.

  26. cibvet 2021-04-07

    Sure Cory, throw science into the discussion when you know that some people only believe in their opinions.

  27. leslie 2021-04-14

    Stuart McFarlane (sounds like Ravnsborg):

    and I introduced legislation to regulate armor-piercing concealable assault weapons like the one used recently in the mass shooting in Boulder.

    As a 27-year law enforcement officer, my top priority is to keep our communities safe.

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