Gun Facts 101: An Epidemic Of Murder?


[Ed: This was first published by James Fite on Liberty Nation News May 21. Used with permission. I’d probably have said “progressives” rather than “Democrats” because some Democrats still think rationally about guns. ]

The political left loves to paint gun violence as a public health crisis – an epidemic, according to the Biden administration – but is that justified? A look at the numbers as they relate to the rest of America’s problems shows the “epidemic” label might be just a tad dramatic.

Firearm Deaths By The Numbers

According to the CDC, there were 45,222 “firearm-related deaths” in the US in 2020. On the CDC’s FastStats pages, a more revealing breakdown is available, however. There were 24,576 homicides in 2020, of which 19,384 involved guns. So why the first, much higher, number? Well, that includes accidents, justified defensive shootings, homicides, and the biggest chunk of all, suicides. In 2020, 45,979 people took their own lives – and 24,292 of them used firearms. Approximately 3,358,814 deaths occurred in the US in 2020, according to the CDC’s Provisional Mortality Data published in 2021. The 19,384 firearm homicides account for just 0.58% of the nation’s deaths that year. If we define “gun violence deaths” as murders, suicides, defensive-shootings, and accidents, as the CDC and the rest of the Biden administration clearly does, then firearms still only accounted for about 1.3% of the deaths that year.

Kidneys More Likely To Kill Than Guns

Even being generous enough to the left’s narrative to pretend that 100% of those who used a gun to kill either themselves or someone else in 2020 would have chosen life rather than death if only firearms weren’t available – as if there weren’t thousands of other homicides and suicides already – guns don’t even come close to ranking in the top causes of mortality. The top ten for that year include, in order: heart disease, cancer, COVID-19, unintentional injury, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease Alzheimer disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, and kidney disease. The last accounted for 52,547, or 1.56% of the year’s deaths. That’s three times the share of lives claimed by actual firearm violence – but if gun violence were only mentioned as often as kidney disease, never mind a third as often, it wouldn’t even be a part of the national discussion.

As for deadly potential, the 2020 population of the US was an estimated 329.5 million. That means 329.5 million pairs of kidneys, of which 52,547, or 0.016%, killed their owners. Pretending for a moment that there are no multiple murders, and again, that 100% of the suicides and homicides wouldn’t have happened without firearms, then just 45,222 firearms, or 0.011 of the estimated 413 million in America, would have taken lives in 2020.

Who’s Fired Up Over Fentanyl?

Another actual epidemic that the left-wing media refuses to pay much attention, if any at all, is the skyrocketing number of fentanyl overdose deaths – and that’s something the government could actually do something about. As Liberty Nation’s Sarah Cowgill reported, there were 107,000 fentanyl overdose deaths in 2021. In 2020, there were an estimated 70,029.

Just 150 micrograms of fentanyl is considered a “significant risk” of overdose, according to the anesthesiologist and two Ph.D. chemists working with Harm Reduction Ohio, a non-profit dedicated to reducing the harm associated with drug use and drug policy. “High risk” is 250, “extreme risk” is 400, “death likely” is 700, and “death near certain” is 1,000 micrograms. The 250-1,000 range can kill most non-tolerant users, including veteran heroin users who have been abstinent for a while – but 2,000 micrograms will kill anyone. There are 1,000,000 micrograms in a single gram, meaning that each gram of fentanyl that makes its way over the border is enough to potentially mean certain death for 500 of the most tolerant heroin users – and that doesn’t account for the vast majority of people, who are at significant risk of overdose with less than one tenth of that 2,000 microgram dose.

A single pound – 453.592 grams – of fentanyl is 229,796 “certain death” doses, and a whopping 4,776 pounds of the drug were seized by authorities at the border in 2020. That’s enough to deliver 2,000 microgram doses to 1,097,505,696 people – more than three times the entire US population that year. Now imagine how much made it across … and realize that 2021’s numbers blew 2020 out of the water.

As we can calculate simply enough by subtracting firearm suicides from the total firearm deaths number above, the CDC’s number of non-suicide firearm-related deaths for 2020 was 20,930 – meaning guns became slightly less deadly as time went on. One must wonder how much that has to do with the growing number of states climbing aboard the constitutional carry bandwagon.

So, in 2020, fentanyl killed 3.35 times more people than firearms, when excluding suicide, and 5.16 times as many in 2021. And firearms became slightly less deadly as time went on while fentanyl became a much more severe problem – one which seems likely to continue to worsen over time. Despite this, while the folks in the Biden administration seem to be laser focused on “curing the gun violence epidemic,” even to the point of circumventing Congress whenever they think they can get away with it, they seem to almost ignore this far deadlier crisis. Why? Well, it’s likely a matter of narrative.

An Epidemic Of Gun Violence – Or Political Posturing?

“Guns kill, and therefore we should outlaw them – or, at the very least, restrict them heavily.” That line sells votes for the Democratic Party. “Enough Fentanyl is crossing our porous southern border because of lax security and immigration policies to wipe out the entire population, so maybe we should tighten up a bit down there and stop saying things that inspire massive caravans out of South and Central America to head north” isn’t something any Democrat would want to tell the voting base. Therefore, it isn’t something the complicit left-biased media acting as the party’s public relations arm would willingly cover – at least not until it can’t be avoided anymore.

As LN’s Graham J. Noble explained back in 2019, Democrats have always pushed firearm restrictions under the guise of “common sense gun control.” Despite the inevitable claims that they respect the Second Amendment and gaslighting of opponents as paranoid conspiracy theorists, Democrats have dedicated at least some effort to restricting the right to keep and bear arms even in the best of times. In times of crisis, however, they leap from to the forefront of the national news with some new anti-gun measure at the ready. And don’t be fooled by the calming efforts; Democrats do want an unarmed populace, and they always have. They don’t always get their way, but when they do, the damage tends to be permanent. The successes of this method stretches back to the National Firearms Act of 1934, a reaction to the crisis of crime created by Prohibition, and it continues through today and will continue on into the future. As Mr. Noble put it: “Democrats have never come across a gun restriction they didn’t like.”



Robert B Young, MD

— DRGO Editor Robert B. Young, MD is a psychiatrist practicing in Pittsford, NY, an associate clinical professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

All DRGO articles by Robert B. Young, MD