It’s the start of a long weekend and the time for a diversion.
It’s the fourth of July weekend and our lesson is: if you older than 50, beware strangers bearing fireworks. Look out for irate neighbors holding cherry bombs, too. For it looks like, if you’ve begun the advance towards cogerhood, the chance you will be murdered by explosives rises dramatically. Read on to learn why.
The FBI publishes the homicide statistics for the US (these are from 2008, the latest numbers available). They track the sex, race, and age of the victims and how they were done in. What makes it fun is that they compile who was whacked with what at what age. This is how we come to the fireworks warning below.
But first sex. Shown is the proportion (percentage) of murder victims by age and sex.
Boy and girls, assuming there are roughly equal numbers of each in the population (in each age bracket), are sent into the great beyond at about the same rates until around 11 years of age, after which young men rapidly accelerate to about 90 percent of all homicides. This shocking inequality—where is the outcry?—continues until men reach their decrepitude, and the male-female murder returns to parity.
Of course, at advanced ages women outnumber men (many of whom have been prematurely shuffled off the stage, as the picture tells us), so the evident parity is likely false. Men are almost surely, in proportion to the men left alive, more likely to be killed with malice than females.
Now race. Shows in the percentage of murder victim by age and race.
This graph is trickier to interpret because there are not equal numbers of whites and blacks (in each age bracket) in the population. Whites are around 60-ish percent, blacks 15-or-so percent. If the homicide rate between the two races were the same, then we’d expect that, for any age, about 60% of murder victims would be white, and about 15% would be black. This is roughly true for white 1- to 2-year olds, but not for black toddlers.
The discrepancy between the two races grows larger as the young men enter their chief testosterone-generating years. Black per-capita murder rates are much higher than are whites’, a sad fact by now well known to everybody. The good news is that by the time men have signed up for AARP, the black homicide rate is exactly what you would expect for the percent of blacks in the population. But then whites become more quarrelsome, with no topping out in site with age.
How were people killed?
If you’re going to be killed, your assailant must pick a method. This much is obvious. It turns out that what you’re killed with depends on how old you are. It’s enough to make you weep to learn that the very youngest are killed by beatings; with fists. On the other hand, it’s almost cheering to learn that deaths-by-fist drop to near zero after the would-be victims are old enough to start fighting back. However, fists come back into play in old age.
Guns are killing off most of the murdered teenagers—no surprise there. This rate is as high it is undoubtedly because of the shocking lack of firearms safety courses in our high schools.
Probably the eternal romance of the blade—we all imagine ourselves swashbucklers—accounts for the ever-increasing use of knives as we age. But blunt objects (candlesticks, almost certainly) are a close second and always close at hand. What really fascinates is the high jump in strangulations for social-security-check recipients. Nursing homes are downright dangerous places!
Don’t read too much into the jump in poisonings for 8-10-year olds; this is likely an artifact caused by the low number of murderers reaching for the cyanide. The early bump in murder-by-fire appears real, though. And gruesome. It matches the peak in narcotics murders, which if combined with poisonings, makes that early trend of killing by chemical more likely an actual one.
Finally, we return to our warning: if you’re old, stay away from people bearing fireworks, which are, of course, explosives by another name. The chance, if you’re going to be killed, is small that your end will literally be met with a bang, but small is still non-zero. Especially on the fourth of July.
Travel safely, dear readers.