Gun death report criticized


A report showing that Vermont had more gun-related deaths than highway fatalities in 2011 is an anomaly, sportsmen's groups say.

The report, which was released last week by the Violence Policy Center, said Vermont had 78 gun deaths and 62 motor vehicle deaths in 2011. That marked the first time the state recorded more gun deaths than crash deaths.

The vast majority of the gun deaths are suicides and the number of highway deaths was below average that year, critics said.

The Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., conducts research and education initiatives to advocate for increased gun control.

"More than 90 percent of American households own a car while little more than a third of American households contain a gun. And yet, if charted out year by year deaths nationwide from these two consumer products are on a trajectory to intersect," a statement released with the study stated.

Vermont gun deaths increased from 52 in 2007 to 78 in 2011, according to Department of Health statistics. About 90 percent of those deaths - 65 of 70 deaths in 2010 - were suicides. In 2008, there were eight firearm-related homicides, none in 2009, one in 2010, and four in 2011, and two in 2012. The remaining gun deaths in the VPC report were accidental.

"Two deaths a year for a population of 600,000 is a damn good number. Truly violent crime numbers are extremely low," said Ed Cutler, president of Gun Owners of Vermont.

Between 2007 and 2010, motor vehicle fatalities fluctuated between 67 and 73, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

Evan Hughes, vice president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen, emphasized that he doesn't expect to see Vermont on this list again.

"It was a one-year anomaly," Hughes said, citing the record low numbers of motor vehicle deaths. "Homicides and accidents are some of the lowest in the country, both by ratios and numbers. Suicides have remained stable. And this is in a state with a very high number of licensed gun owners."


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