Newspaper article

Tallying Gun Deaths: One Minnesotan Killed Every Day by Firearms

Newspaper article

Tallying Gun Deaths: One Minnesotan Killed Every Day by Firearms

Article excerpt

More than 300 young people -- including small children -- have died from gunshots in Minnesota since the year 2000.

Add the adults killed by gunfire, and the numbers reveal a bloody routine: On average, one Minnesotan dies every day by firearms while another suffers injuries.

Even in relatively peaceful Minnesota, more than 3,600 people died from gun-related homicides, suicides and accidents between 2000 and 2010, according to estimates by the Minnesota Department of Health. Firearms are the state's second leading cause of traumatic brain injury deaths, officials said in a comprehensive health report.

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

Because the deaths of the Minnesota teens and children primarily came one by one rather than in connection with a mass shooting, their individual tragedies did not stir the same level of widespread shock, anger and sorrow that followed the slaughter of 20 children in Newtown, Conn., in December.

Even so, these Minnesota kids - who died in small-town schools, inner city bedrooms and many places in between - are mourned by families, classmates and neighbors.

Their memories stand as a backdrop for debates taking shape in the Minnesota Legislature as lawmakers in this state and across the nation consider whether more gun control is needed - and, if so, what form it should take.

The suicide factor

One reason the numbers may surprise many Minnesotans is that most of the deaths were not covered by news media or otherwise publicly reported because they were suicides. Indeed, suicides outnumbered all other causes of gun-related deaths. Between 2000 and 2010, guns were used to commit an average 256 suicides each year in Minnesota compared with 70 homicides per year.

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

Nationwide, guns are the fifth most common means of suicide for children between 10 and 14 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a number that climbed to fourth nationwide for those between 15 and 24 years old. In Minnesota, 24 children aged between 10 and 14 claimed their own lives with a gun over 11 years. Among those between 15 and 19, that number jumped to 178 deaths.

Many lives lost to suicide likely would have been saved if people had gotten rid of their firearms, kept them locked away or stored them outside the home, said David Hemenway, director of Harvard's Injury Control Research Center.

"Studies show that most attempters act on impulse, in moments of panic or despair," Hemenway said in connection with the online release of a nationwide study entitled "Guns and Suicide: A Fatal Link."

"Once the acute feelings ease, 90 percent do not go on to die by suicide," he said.

The 2007 Harvard study is part of a large body of research showing that suicide is more prevalent in areas where guns are readily and plentifully available. …

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