Further Exploring American Exceptionalism via the Global Burden of Disease Study (Suicide)

Yesterday I explored America’s violent exceptionalism by looking at homicide data for the 38 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) collected by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).

Today I want to see what these data tell us about the problem of suicide in the United States relative to our peer nations. Are we exceptional here, too?

As with my examination of homicide, this is admittedly a very simplistic analysis. But for my work, it is important to be able to say something about the big picture of negative outcomes with firearms in the United States as a starting point for more sophisticated analyses.

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Exploring America’s Violent Exceptionalism via the Global Burden of Disease Collaborative Network (Homicide)

Lately, I have been working on the chapter of my book on American gun culture that explores negative outcomes with firearms.

Although I differ from most scholars studying guns by beginning not with gun deviance but with the normality of guns and gun owners, I do take negative outcomes seriously.

America is exceptional in the world for the number of firearms legally owned by its citizens, as well as the laws and culture that support widespread civilian gun ownership. Understanding this has been central to my work over the years.

America is also exceptional among its peer nations in its rate of firearm-related deaths. Here I will focus on homicide using 2019 data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study for the 38 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These are high-income, high human development index, developed nations which provide an appropriate peer comparison group for understanding homicide rates in the United States.

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Thinking About Absolute vs. Relative Risk of Negative Outcomes with Firearms

Lately, I have been working on the chapter of my book on American gun culture that explores negative outcomes with firearms.

Although I differ from most scholars studying guns by beginning not with gun deviance but with the normality of guns and gun owners, I do take negative outcomes seriously.

Trying to get a better understanding of how the United States compares to other countries in the world in terms of negative outcomes with firearms, I recently stumbled upon the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and its cross-national Global Burden of Disease (GBD) database (more about IHME GBD at the end).

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Light Over Heat #17: Are Gun Owners Thoughtful Risk Analysts?

The idea that guns are a risk factor – for homicide, suicide, accidental death, and injury – was a central idea at the gun violence prevention writers workshop I attended in Hartford earlier this month (see Light Over Heat #15 and Light Over Heat #16). This week I reflect more broadly on the role of risk in our lives.

I am risk-averse in certain ways, but in other ways, I take risks all the time. Notably, drinking alcohol which has many well-documented short-term and long-term health risks. Rather than always trying to avoid risk, perhaps we should, in gun trainer Will Petty’s terms, think of risk as a currency that we get to choose how to spend?

In spending our risk wisely, we need to be thoughtful risk analysts and wise risk managers. In bringing firearms into their homes and lives, gun owners are assuming a certain amount of risk for themselves and their loved ones.

This raises the question: Are gun owners thoughtful risk analysts for their own lives?

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Light Over Heat Video #1: Just How Normal Are Guns and Gun Owners, Anyway?

In this first “Light Over Heat with Professor David Yamane” video I take up the question, “Just how normal are guns and gun owners, anyway?”

Drawing on data on negative outcomes with guns as a proportion of the total number of guns owned in the US (400 million), the total number of gun owners (76.56 million), and the total number of gun owning households (51.44 million), I conclude that guns and gun owners are VERY NORMAL.

99.85% of guns, 99.21% of gun owners, and 99.82% of gun owning households will not be involved in any fatalities, non-fatal injuries, or violent victimizations involving guns on any given day. The vast majority of American gun owners do perfectly normal things with their guns.

The basis for the data I use and calculations I make in this video can be found in the associated blog post on my Gun Culture 2.0 blog.

Overview of Negative Outcomes with Guns for Sociology of Guns Seminar (Fall 2020)

Although my scholarship and teaching on the sociology of guns highlights the non-criminological and epidemiological aspects of guns in society, I do not entirely ignore negative outcomes with guns.

In my Sociology of Guns seminar, I typically allocate 2 or 3 of the modules to gun injury, suicide, and homicide. Teaching on-line this semester, I provided the students with an overview of negative outcomes with guns asynchronously (via a narrated PowerPoint turned into a YouTube video) so we would have more time in our on-line (Zoom) synchronous class session to delve into the issues more deeply.

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