Oregon Gunfire Deaths Outnumber Accident Deaths

Think of the ten states where you would expect more people to be killed by gunfire than in motor vehicle accidents. If you’re thinking places like New York, California, Florida or Illinois, you wouldn’t even have one of the top 10 in your list.

It might surprise a lot of people, but Oregon and Washington are two of the ten states in America where more people were killed by guns than in accidents in 2009, the most recent year for which such statistics are available. Washington (the state, not D.C.) actually ranked fourth among the ten states that saw more people killed in shootings than in road accidents.

Data analyzed by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) showed:

  • Oregon had 417 gun-related deaths in 2009. By comparison, there were 394 motor vehicle deaths.
  • Washington recorded an incredible 623 gun deaths, compared to an equally disturbing 580 deaths in motor vehicle accidents.

Guns aren’t regulated for health and safety

Legislative Director for the VPC, Kristen Rand, said the problems in the states that see high numbers of gun deaths could be related to the lack of regulations on guns at both state and national level. Rand says guns are the only consumer product with virtually no federal health and safety requirements, and she says this presents a whole range of difficulties.

“There are virtually no controls, so you have this whole range of problems with the firearms themselves,” Rand said. “Also, the fact that there are categories of people who aren’t supposed to possess firearms (but do); sometimes the enforcement in that (law) is very spotty.”

Rank acknowledges that the VPC is an advocate for greater gun control, and she also noted that car deaths have declined significantly over the past 10 years due mostly to very strong and well-enforced federal regulations. For example, Oregon has one of the highest safety belt usage rates in the country, and this has contributed to gun deaths overtaking the number of road deaths. The implication is that should the same level of enforcement be placed on gun ownership, the level of deaths caused by gunfire could also be driven down.

And the other eight states in the infamous top 10 are…

Given the wide swings in population, it seems only fair to list the 10 states that experienced more gun deaths than road deaths in 2009 in alphabetical order. They are:

  • Alaska – 104 gun deaths compared to 84 motor vehicle deaths
  • Arizona – A shocking 856 gun deaths compared to an also relatively high 809 road accident deaths
  • Colorado – 583 gun deaths and 565 motor vehicle deaths
  • Indiana – 735 gun deaths compared to 715 deaths on the roads
  • Michigan – 1,095 gun deaths and 977 motor vehicle deaths
  • Nevada – The state with the widest margin when gun deaths (406) outpaced motor vehicle deaths (255).
  • Oregon recorded 417 gun-related deaths in 2009, compared to 394 motor vehicle deaths.
  • Utah nearly had an equal number of gun deaths (260) and motor vehicle deaths (256).
  • Virginia – 836 gun deaths compared to 827 motor vehicle deaths
  • Washington – 623 gun deaths and 580 motor vehicle deaths.

The VPC says the fall in motor vehicle deaths is due to decades of rigorous implementation and enforcement of safety policies. Vehicles themselves have been made safer, and highways have been better designed. This makes it all the more frustrating that so little has been done to introduce health and safety regulations for guns.

“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 Rand, then added, “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,” Rand concluded.

It’s difficult to know whether to congratulate Oregon officials for getting road deaths down very successfully, or to castigate them for not doing enough to regulate firearms. The fact still remains that more than 800 people lost their lives in accidents in the two categories of gun deaths and motor vehicle accidents in the state.

In a large number of those 800 deaths, the victims were killed due to the negligence or deliberately harmful act of someone else. Wrongful death claims are allowed in this state, and while a successful lawsuit will not ease the pain of losing a loved one, it can still go some way towards securing the future of those who have been left behind.

If a member of your family has been killed in a motor vehicle accident or gunfire incident, contact a good Portland wrongful death attorney for a free consultation. Find out exactly what your rights are and the best way to proceed. Let an excellent personal injury lawyer get you and your family the compensation you deserve, and that you will need to get on with your lives.

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