Gun Deaths and Syphilis

About a month ago, another, more conservative, lawyer and I were discussing regional differences in attitudes about guns with a group of northern, urban law students. You may not like guns, my friend told the students, but many of your jurors, especially in rural areas, will feel very differently. Good advice, I thought.

And then my friend added something to the effect that the good people of rural America (he had the grace not to refer to them as “real Americans”, although I suspect he might have had that phrase in the back of his mind) know how to use guns, and never use them improperly, unlike the people who are turning the poor neighborhoods of large cities like Chicago into horror zones. I suggested that while that might be the common belief of gun ownership advocates, gun crime in rural areas is actually more prevalent than he apparently believed. Who was right?

Well I didn’t find statistics on gun crime, per se, but I did find a great website, run by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, that has assembled a large number of public health statistics on a state-by-state basis, including firearm deaths. This includes not just murder, but suicide, accidental deaths, justifiable police shootings — everything. Here’s the link.

I thought that the results were very interesting, although I’m not sure exactly what to make of them. DC has the highest rate, 20.6 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2006, more than twice the national average of 10.2 — no surprise, it’s a single, violent big city. Louisiana is second — how much of that is from New Orleans, and how much from rural areas? The rest of the top ten are Alaska (17.1 deaths per 100,000), Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Wyoming (15.0 deaths per 100,000). Toward the bottom of the list, rural states Maine (7.3) and New Hampshire (6.1) have rates that are half or less than the rural states in the top ten. Also, among urban states, New York (5.1) and New Jersey (5.7) are significantly lower than Illinois (8.0) and California (9.1).

I haven’t looked at all of the statistics on the website yet, but I did notice that in addition to being 1 and 2 for highest rates of gun deaths, DC and Louisiana are 1 and 2 for highest rates of syphilis infection. So you might just want to stay home on Saturday night.

Conforming to stereotypes, West Virginia and Tennessee are at the top of the list for percentage of adults over age 65 who have had all their natural teeth extracted. There are also statistics for a catagory labeled “Attempts to Quit Smoking by Sex,” but it’s not what it sounds like.


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