“More People Die from Guns Than Car Accidents in Michigan”

So states a Detroit Free Press op-ed headline. Here’s an excerpt from the op-ed itself:

Michigan is one of 10 states in which gun deaths now outpace motor vehicle deaths, according to a study released Thursday by the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center.

But don’t expect the from-my-cold-dead-hands crowd to embrace the center’s conclusion that the disparity has everything to do with federal regulation — extensive and wildly successful in the case of motor vehicles, and virtually non-existent in the case of firearms.

“The idea that gun deaths exceed motor vehicle deaths in 10 states is stunning when one considers that 90% of American households own a car, while fewer than a third own firearms,” VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand said. “It is time to end firearms’ status as the last unregulated consumer product.” …

“Motor vehicle deaths are on the decline as the result of a successful decades-long public health-based injury prevention strategy that includes safety-related changes to vehicles and highway design informed by comprehensive data collection and analysis,” a release accompanying the VPC study said. “Meanwhile, firearms are the only consumer product not regulated by the federal government for health and safety.”

But wait: The number of accidental gun deaths in Michigan in 2009 (the most recent year reported in WISQARS) was … 12, compared to 962 accidental motor-vehicle-related deaths. 99% of the gun deaths in Michigan that year consisted of suicides (575) and homicides (495).

Now say what you will about whether some gun control laws might reduce suicides or homicides, but it’s extremely unlikely that any “safety-related changes” or “regulat[ions] … for health and safety” are going to eliminate all but a tiny fraction of those suicides and homicides, which are overwhelmingly intentional acts by people who are willing to kill and are unlikely to be stopped by “regulat[ion] by the federeal government for health and safety.” Yet curiously the op-ed says nothing about how few of the gun deaths were accidental, and how few homicides or suicides could be prevented by “safety-related changes” along the lines of the safety regulations imposed on cars.

This also helps explain, I think, why gun rights supporters are so worried about “health and safety” proposals. Precisely because such proposals are so unlikely to have much of an effect, the gun rights supporters naturally assume that the backers of the proposals aren’t really after modest car-like “regulat[ions] … for health and safety,” but are actually trying to bring about much more aggressive sorts of gun restrictions.