Making sense of .007 percent

  • Thread starter mikeR3975
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  • #1
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Hi, I'm not sure if I'm posting this in the correct place or not. I'm having a discussion with one of my high school age daughters about gun violence. We've started this discussion because of the recent shooting in Arizona. I'm trying to explain to her that given the number of guns in the US, the number of homicides are a relatively small number. I'm comparing this to the number of homicides by the use of a knife from the 2009 FBI crime stats, which are almost identical. I understand that some people are uncomfortable with a conversation like this but I'm trying to teach my daughter to see the "big picture" and to to look at issues with reason. I do not want her to look at issues and evaluate them using emotion, which seems to be happening at her school.

Homework Statement



I have taken the estimated number of guns in the country, http://www.numberof.net/number-of-guns-in-america/" [Broken]in 2009, which is 1,946.


Homework Equations





The Attempt at a Solution



So, I divide the number of guns by the number of homicides and get .000007, which of course is .0007 percent.

I want to be able to give her an example of what .0007 percent is but I'm at a total loss to be able to explain that in real world terms so she can see "the big picture." Can someone please provide an example of what this percent might look like in a comparison?

Thank you very much

Mike
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Hi, I'm not sure if I'm posting this in the correct place or not. I'm having a discussion with one of my high school age daughters about gun violence. We've started this discussion because of the recent shooting in Arizona. I'm trying to explain to her that given the number of guns in the US, the number of homicides are a relatively small number. I'm comparing this to the number of homicides by the use of a knife from the 2009 FBI crime stats, which are almost identical. I understand that some people are uncomfortable with a conversation like this but I'm trying to teach my daughter to see the "big picture" and to to look at issues with reason. I do not want her to look at issues and evaluate them using emotion, which seems to be happening at her school.

Homework Statement



I have taken the estimated number of guns in the country, http://www.numberof.net/number-of-guns-in-america/" [Broken]in 2009, which is 1,946.


Homework Equations





The Attempt at a Solution



So, I divide the number of guns by the number of homicides and get .000007, which of course is .0007 percent.

I want to be able to give her an example of what .0007 percent is but I'm at a total loss to be able to explain that in real world terms so she can see "the big picture." Can someone please provide an example of what this percent might look like in a comparison?

Thank you very much

Mike

I think I've figured a way to look at this.

If you take a mile (5280 feet) and convert it to inches, you get 63,360 inches.

I then take 63,360 and multiply it by .000007 for an answer of .44 inches. .44 inches breaks down to 11/25ths of an inch.

So then an accurate way to explain this is by comparing it to less than half an inch of a mile?
 
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  • #3
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I'm trying to explain to her that given the number of guns in the US, the number of homicides are a relatively small number. I'm comparing this to the number of homicides by the use of a knife from the 2009 FBI crime stats, which are almost identical. I understand that some people are uncomfortable with a conversation like this but I'm trying to teach my daughter to see the "big picture" and to to look at issues with reason. I do not want her to look at issues and evaluate them using emotion, which seems to be happening at her school.
I have taken the estimated number of guns in the country, http://www.numberof.net/number-of-guns-in-america/" [Broken]in 2009, which is 1,946.

So, I divide the number of guns by the number of homicides and get .000007, which of course is .0007 percent.
No, if you divide 276 million by 1946, you get about 142,000. If you divide the number of firearms homicides by the number of guns, you get the figure you reported.
 
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  • #4
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No, if you divide 276 million by 1946, you get about 142,000. If you divide the number of firearms homicides by the number of guns, you get the figure you reported.

Thank you. I did the math correctly I think but reported the equation wrong. Do the numbers work out correctly in my comparison to a mile?
 
  • #6
Mentallic
Homework Helper
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Do the numbers work out correctly in my comparison to a mile?
Yes.

I usually find that it's hard for people to perceive large numbers - such as that of 276 million, so when comparing that to 1946 many quickly jump to the conclusion that while there are lots of guns, there are still lots of homicides. Breaking this down to 1 homicide per 276 million / 1946 = 142,000 is a good starting point.

Now compare this to other given situations where it's much easier to visualize large quantities, such as that which you've done with the distances.

But also, I would find it a bit unfair to count how many guns there are in the country. Wouldn't counting the number of households with at least 1 gun be a more realistic statistic to compare to? Even though it doesn't help your case...
 
  • #7
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Yes.

I usually find that it's hard for people to perceive large numbers - such as that of 276 million, so when comparing that to 1946 many quickly jump to the conclusion that while there are lots of guns, there are still lots of homicides. Breaking this down to 1 homicide per 276 million / 1946 = 142,000 is a good starting point.

Now compare this to other given situations where it's much easier to visualize large quantities, such as that which you've done with the distances.

But also, I would find it a bit unfair to count how many guns there are in the country. Wouldn't counting the number of households with at least 1 gun be a more realistic statistic to compare to? Even though it doesn't help your case...

Ah, yes, I see your point. I think what my daughter's school is telling her though is that guns kill people. So, in order to refute/educate/or let her see the big picture, I just used the number of guns in the US. From the FBI stats there, only 121 (oops, I subtracted way wrong on this. The correct number is 7,321) more people were killed with guns than were killed with knives, so I'm attempting to educate her on how those numbers break down.
 
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  • #8
phyzguy
Science Advisor
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I'm not sure I understand the logic of your argument. So what if the odds of a given firearm killing someone are low? This is like arguing that the World Trade Center attack was not a big concern, because there are 20,000 jetliners in the world, and only 2 flew into the World Trade Center. Therefore the odds of a jetliner being used to destroy a building are only .01%, so it's something we shouldn't worry about. What if it were your 9 year old daughter that was killed in Tucson, might you feel differently? I don't argue that people shouldn't own firearms, but why do people need assault rifles and automatic weapons that can fire 32 rounds in a few seconds, like the one that was used in Tucson? Why don't we require better background checks so that mentally unstable people aren't allowed to buy firearms?
 
  • #9
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to phyzguy:

I think you are making my point. It is not logical to assume that jetliners cause the WTC attack. There were no calls to ban airliners after the attack. Politicians did not get on the radio and TV and talk about how evil airliners were to our society and how they should be outlawed. The issue with the WTC attack is a portion of a religious group. After the WTC attack, we didn't declare war on airliners, we declared war on a portion of that religious group.

At the same time, it is also not logical to assume that guns caused the tragedy in Tucson. Yet, we see calls by politicians to ban guns, and certain magazines, and so forth and guns and gun components are being blamed. It's easy to do that because it fits an agenda.

I would much rather teach my children that sometimes there are just crazy people in the world who do crazy things than blame the actions of a crazy people on inanimate objects.

IN the UK, they have almost completely banned guns. It's a mandatory 5 year prison term if you get caught with one. Then people started killing each other with knives. So, they banned knives. http://www.insight-security.com/facts-knife-crime-stats.htm" [Broken].

We're from Tucson and Giffords is our representative. This is in the forefront of the news and school discussions here. I'm trying to counter some of what the school is telling my daughter. Guns are not evil. Evil people are evil. It is interesting to note that Giffords is a pro-gun Democrat.

I did not really want this to turn into a political discussion but this is what is going on in a nutshell.
 
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  • #10
Zryn
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It is not logical to assume that jetliners cause the WTC attack. There were no calls to ban airliners after the attack.

At the same time, it is also not logical to assume that guns caused the tragedy in Tucson. Yet, we see calls by politicians to ban guns, and certain magazines, and so forth and guns and gun components are being blamed. It's easy to do that because it fits an agenda.

List the uses of an airplane. List the uses of a gun.

I would much rather teach my children that sometimes there are just crazy people in the world who do crazy things than blame the actions of a crazy people on inanimate objects.

List all the incidents with crazy people and airplanes. List all the incidents with crazy people and guns.

I hope your daughter 'teaches' you a few things, but I'm a realist :smile:.
 
  • #11
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phyzguy and Zryn, you guys are taking this off-topic IMO.
 
  • #12
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List the uses of an airplane. List the uses of a gun.



List all the incidents with crazy people and airplanes. List all the incidents with crazy people and guns.

I hope your daughter 'teaches' you a few things, but I'm a realist :smile:.

See, again I think you are making my point. There is the whole transportation part of airplanes. You know, flying goods and people back for forth. Then, there is the military aspect of airplanes. Close air support, combat air patrols, shooting down other aircraft, bombing raids, on buildings, people, bridges etc...

Then, you have the whole aspect of planes being used by crazies. We'll list hijackings, blowing them up in flight with people aboard, and flying them into buildings. These things have been done many times over many years.

But, there are no calls to limit the number of people that can sit on a plane. There are no calls for the limits of the pounds of fuel that a plane can hold. There have been no calls to limit the size of planes.

It is not logical that guns and gun components would be blamed/regulated when aircraft are not. They are both used as tools by crazies but only one is demonized.
 
  • #13
Mentallic
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But, there are no calls to limit the number of people that can sit on a plane. There are no calls for the limits of the pounds of fuel that a plane can hold. There have been no calls to limit the size of planes.

So in other words, there are many dangers in this world. We do our best to avoid accidents but it's in our nature to sometimes make errors.
This is why we have car crashes, why we have plane malfunctions, and so on. But as already pointed out, all these utilities have a purpose to enhance our lives. Guns have no other sole purpose than to kill.

I live in Australia and guns are banned here without a license that gives a good reason for ownership, such as killing predators that attack your farm animals.

Enforcing a limit on the amount of fuel a plane can hold is a terrible analogy. First of all, this would be creating unnecessary economical boundaries - and if a plane's fuel tank is going to blow, it's going to take down the plane either way. There is also no limit on the amount of bullets you can acquire for your guns, it only takes 1 to kill a person.

What is your reason for owning a gun?
 

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