Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Humans and risk assessment

Author:Eric Soroos
Posted:5/5/1999; 5:08:10 PM
Topic:scriptingNews outline for 5/4/99
Msg #:5714 (In response to 5701)
Prev/Next:5713 / 5715

Gun control is an interesting issue. Guns are obviously dangerous and people are frightened by them, but I think these individual events distort the bigger picture of what is dangerous.

Over the past few years, about 50 people per year are killed in US schools (this number may have been only due to guns), this past year it was ~25.

This is similar to the number of people killed by tornadoes (10s per year). It is also around the order of magnitude of the number of people struck by lightening per year.

Generally hundreds of people per year are killed in planes in the US, although last year was the first 0 fatality year in a long time.

Somewhere between 35 and 40 thousand people are killed with cars per year.

Hundreds of thousands people a year die of cancer or heart disease per year.

I haven't seen a number recently of the total number of people killed by guns per year, but my guess is that it's somewhere near the auto number, in the low tens of thousands.

And to put it in perspective, maybe a thousand people a year hit the lottery jackpot (30 statesx50 jackpots).

The lesson? Human beings are bad at assigning risk. We get frightened about things that are very unlikely but we can't control, yet we are comfortable driving to work every morning. Kids that are worried about going to school smoke. People are scared of flying, but think nothing of picking someone up at the airport.

Littleton was a tradgedy. A very visible tradgedy. The collective reaction seems to have been to push a restrictive, controlling adgenda without regard to the resulting erosion of liberty.


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