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Posted May 22, 2012, 10:17 am
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."