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Prall: Guns and cars race for #1 killer

BY JACOB PRALL | JANUARY 28, 2015 5:00 AM

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Cars and guns are neck and neck for the No. 1 cause of death among those 25 years and younger.
Writers at the Economist and researchers for the Center for American Progress were the first to bring attention to the strange statistic. In 2013, 32,719 people between the ages of 0 and 25 died in car accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In 2011 (the most recent set of data), 32,351 people in the same age range died from bullets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes suicides, accidents, and domestic violence.

Let’s break this down. Before properly digesting this data, one might jump to ill-formed conclusions.

Car deaths are down 25 percent from 2004. Thank the popularity of seat-belt laws, the effectiveness of anti-OWI initiatives, and the technology of modern motor vehicles for the decline. The number is expected to decrease further as cars get smarter. By that logic, it is safe to assume guns will surpass cars as the No. 1 killer of young adults.

The auto industry has experienced years of regulation. The introduction of seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones cut down vehicular deaths significantly. The same cannot be said for the weapons industry.

This isn’t about the Second Amendment. It is merely curious that traffic laws such as mandatory seat-belt and zero-texting policies garner wide spread support; curious because gun regulatory laws are so vehemently opposed.

Cars and guns are two very different things, but both are directly responsible for around the same number of deaths every year. A death is a death, whether it comes from behind the wheel or in front of the barrel.

The statistic itself isn’t necessarily significant. It confirms a noticeable trend in our society toward safer transportation and increased gun usage. It may be a significant symbol, however.

Lawmakers should consider new legislation regulating firearms. The NRA still fights for the right to bear arms even if you’re a felon, convicted of domestic violence, or mentally distressed. Most of America does not support this rhetoric. Increased scrutiny in the auto industry didn’t lead to cars disappearing, it led to smarter design and innovation.

New technology is surfacing that could be the seat belt and crumple zone for the firearm. One promising innovation is a trigger that only activates when the owner’s finger presses it. This sort of user recognition is not a new idea. The NRA continues to put its weight against such technologies. That puzzles me.

If we are to live in a society that is OK with firearms outside of a hunting context, new technology is essential. Many feel uncomfortable and threatened when open-carry policies are embraced, and for good reason. More than 32,000 young people die from firearms. The fear is not unfounded.

Additional scrutiny from the ground up could make guns a lot safer and save lives in the process. This in turn might just ease the tension non-gun wielders experience when confronted with peers wearing their weapons “loud and proud.” The only way this optimistic viewpoint has a chance of existence is if the NRA steps aside.


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