What is the baserate number of "Wackos in America"?

I heard an NPR story this morning in which the local sheriff is interviewed and mentions that he has to follow up on all death threats because “there are a lot of wackos in America.”

I immediately began to wonder what exactly what is the number of wackos in America? Does anyone really know? This kind of comment fits a convenient narrative about wackos but is lacking in the kind of precision and nuanced meaning that is crucial for making informed decisions about how much risk we really face. I don’t know what a wacko is, nor do I actually know anything about the people who make death threats. Are they really serious? Has anyone ever studied this? For example at the CPAC meeting there is a session titled “Should we shoot all the consultants now?” These might be threatening words, but does anyone really think this is a threat?

For reference:
The CDC reports that there were 16,259 homicides in the US in 2010, for a rate of 5.3 per 100k. They also report that there were 120k unintentional injury deaths (accidents) for a rate of 39.1 per 100k. If we assume that homicide is caused by wackos then the risk of death by wacko is significantly less than accidental death.



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