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Guns killed more Arizonans than cars

Study shows more 2009 deaths from firearms than motor vehicles in 10 states

More Arizonans were killed in firearms-related incidents in 2009 than in motor vehicle crashes, a new study said. While 809 people died in vehicle crashes, there were 856 gun deaths, a state-by-state analysis by the Violence Policy Center showed.

Arizona was one of ten states where more people were killed by guns than in crashes, the gun-control advocacy group said Tuesday in a call for more regulation of firearms.

A local gun-rights activist dismissed the call for more gun control, but said gun safety education could be better.

"There are more people who die in car accidents than from guns, nationally," said Charles Heller of the Arizona Citizens Defense League. "50,000 people die in crashes, and about 32,000 from guns—and how much of that is suicide?"

Across the country, there were 31,236 firearm deaths in 2009 and 36,361 motor vehicle deaths, according the Violence Policy Center. In 2010, deaths in crashes declined to 35,080, continuing a long trend. The center's report did not break out the type of incidents.

The Violence Policy Center said motor vehicle deaths are on the decline because of safety-related changes to vehicles and data-driven highway designs.

'You want them to be dangerous or they're no damn good'

"Meanwhile, firearms are the only consumer product not regulated by the federal government for health and safety," the group said in a news release.

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"Americans are reaping the benefits of smart safety regulation of motor vehicles. The idea that gun deaths exceed motor vehicle deaths in 10 states is stunning when one considers that 90 percent of American households own a car while fewer than a third own firearms," said the group's legislative director, Kristen Rand.

"It is also important to consider that motor vehicles—unlike guns—are essential to the functioning of the entire U.S. economy. It is time to end firearms’ status as the last unregulated consumer product," she said.

The comparison between gun deaths and those in car crashes isn't valid, said Heller.

"Japan has a higher suicide rate than the U.S., and none of that is from guns," he said. He called the center's report politically motivated.

"They want to get rid of all handguns," he said.

In Arizona, there were 12.98 gun deaths per 100,000 residents in 2009, compared to 12.27 motor vehicle deaths, the group said.

Of the nine other states, Nevada showed the greatest differential, with 15.36 gun deaths per 100,000 versus 9.65 vehicle deaths.

"Between 1966 and 2000, the combined efforts of government and advocacy organizations reduced the rate of death per 100,000 population by 43 percent which represents a 72 percent decrease in deaths per vehicle miles traveled," the Violence Policy Center said in its report.

"America is reaping the benefits of decades of successful injury prevention strategies on its highways, but continues to pay an unacceptable, yet equally preventable, price in lives lost every year to gun violence," the group said.

The Violence Policy Center recommended tightened gun regulation and education in its report:

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Comprehensive regulation of the firearms industry and its products could include: minimum safety standards (i.e., specific design standards and the requirement of safety devices); bans on certain types of firearms such as “junk guns” and military-style assault weapons; limits on firepower; restrictions on gun possession by those convicted of a violent misdemeanor; heightened restrictions on the carrying of loaded guns in public; improved enforcement of current laws restricting gun possession by persons with histories of domestic violence; more detailed and timely data collection on gun production, sales, use in crime, involvement in injury and death; and, public education about the extreme risks associated with exposure to firearms

Heller rejected calls for design changes in firearms.

"You want them to be dangerous or they're no damn good," he said.

"Making them safer adds complexity, and that has unintended consequences," said the gun-rights activist. "The only true safety in firearms is the person using it."

"Could the state of training be better? Absolutely," he said. "We ought to make gun-safety training mandatory in the schools."

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2 comments on this story

May 22, 2012, 11:56 pm
-2 +4

When the alarming national statistics on shootings push the gun guys into a corner, they often counter with the red herring argument, “But there are more car deaths than gun deaths, despite more regulation of cars, so you shouldn’t regulate guns.”  This study has certainly put a dent in that fallacious argument. 

The gun extremists refuse to believe statistics, no matter if they come from peer-reviewed international journals or governmental authorities, but the rest of us see the wisdom these numbers present.  It is clear that guns need tighter regulation.  At 110,000 shootings a year in America, not counting non-shooting gun crimes, it’s time to do something about it.

My blog post on this study:

May 22, 2012, 5:46 pm
-4 +3

Even if you oppose gun ownership, do you really like being lied to?  And lies are exactly what the Violence Policy Center peddles.  However, for anyone with a shred of objectivity, it really isn’t all that difficuly to see right through those lies.  There are roughly 30,000 deaths annually in the US involving firearms.  Roughly 16,000 of those are suicides, 12,000 homicides, 600 or so are justifiable defensive shootings, and 600 are accidents.  (I don’t have the Arizona numbers, but I am certain they break down in a similar way).

Stop and think for one moment.  The VPC argues a) more people are killed by guns than cars, b) there are more car safety regulations than gun safety regulations, therefore c) we should be imposing more “safety regulations” on guns.  That makes zero sense because the VAST majority of gun deaths have absolutely nothing to do with the safety—the mechanical functionality and reliability—of the guns themselves.  Rather, the vast majority of gun deaths involve complex causative factors touching on criminology, sociology, and mental health.  “Gun safety” is a complete red herring.

The Violence Policy Center has absolutely no interest in “gun safety.”  Scratch the surface and you will plainly see that what they really want is to limit private firearms ownership to the extent possible—to make it outright illegal, or at elast as difficult as possible, for law abiding citizens to own guns.

Don’t buy into their lies.  If you are truly interested in gun safety, join the NRA and promote safe gun handling classes in schools, and vote for elected officials who will take sensible, humane and constructive measures to reduce crime and improve mental health screening and treatment.

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M Glasgow/Flickr

A gun show in Texas, 2007.

Top ten states

The states with more gun deaths than motor vehicle deaths:

  • Alaska: 104 gun deaths, 84 motor vehicle deaths
  • Arizona: 856 gun deaths, 809 motor vehicle deaths
  • Colorado: 583 gun deaths, 565 motor vehicle deaths
  • Indiana: 735 gun deaths, 715 motor vehicle deaths
  • Michigan: 1,095 gun deaths, 977 motor vehicle deaths
  • Nevada: 406 gun deaths, 255 motor vehicle deaths
  • Oregon: 417 gun deaths, 394 motor vehicle deaths
  • Utah: 260 gun deaths, 256 motor vehicle deaths
  • Virginia: 836 gun deaths, 827 motor vehicle deaths
  • Washington: 623 gun deaths, 580 motor vehicle deaths

Gun deaths vs. vehicle deaths

State Gun Deaths Motor Vehicle Deaths Gun Death Rate per 100k Motor Vehicle Death Rate per 100k
Alaska 104 84 14.89 12.03
Arizona 856 809 12.98 12.27
Colorado 583 565 11.60 11.24
Indiana 735 715 11.44 11.13
Michigan 1,095 977 10.98 9.80
Nevada 406 255 15.36 9.65
Oregon 417 394 10.90 10.30
Utah 260 256 9.34 9.19
Virginia 836 827 10.61 10.49
Washington 623 580 9.35 8.70