Arizona had More "Gun Deaths" Than Vehicle Deaths in 2009, Says Anti-Gun Group; Omits Fact That 71 % Were Suicides

Slate, an online magazine, and the Tucson Weekly recently published articles that claim Arizona's "gun death" rate now exceeds the rate of vehicle deaths.

The articles, spurred by the Newtown shooting, were based on a May report by the anti-gun Violence Policy Center in Washington D.C., which lists Arizona as the No. 2 state in this gruesome comparison.

Neither the VPC nor the two publications mention the word "suicide," (okay, except for a brief mention of "murder-suicide" in the Slate article). Yet suicides are a major factor in the VPC's research, even if no one wants to talk about it.

Using statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the VPC notes that Arizona had 856 "gun deaths" in 2009. Looking at the rate per 100,000 people, "gun deaths" exceeded motor vehicle deaths that year.

But the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control statistics also show that in 2009, Arizona had 605 suicides by firearm.

That's a whopping 71 percent of the total of so-called "gun deaths."

Our humble opinion is that lumping suicides into "gun deaths" as a way of promoting gun control is just crap. Still, we were exceedingly courteous and made no insults when we called the VPC this morning to discuss the matter. But our line of questioning nearly caused a VPC spokesperson to burst a blood vessel.

Our first question, which admittedly contained a touch of smart-assedness, was whether the VPC -- which advocates the banning of handguns -- had included suicides by motor vehicle for the vehicle deaths, since it had included suicides in the gun deaths. After all, if a suicidal person can't get his or hands on a gun, a car running in a garage will do the trick.

The woman, who later refused to reveal her name, said she had no idea whether motor-vehicle suicides were included in the statistics. She said we were "nit-picking," so we asked our main question, which was whether or not it was fair to include the suicides in the total of "gun deaths."

She grew somewhat hysterical, announcing that we should do our own analysis and that she didn't have time to argue. We pressed on, asking if the VPC's analysis assumes that without a gun, the "gun-death" victim would not have committed suicide. "Yes! That is my assertion!" the woman yelled.

She proceeded to talk over our responses and raved that the main point of the analysis should be "shocking" to people in Arizona.


"You are just kind of ridiculous," she spewed before hanging up.

Maybe. But no more ridiculous than comparing Arizona suicides to motor-vehicle deaths.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.