How the Violence Policy Center deceives with numbers


by Dan Lucas

The anti-gun organization, the Violence Policy Center (VPC), produced an “analysis” with the headline-grabbing title “Gun Deaths Outpace Motor Vehicle Deaths in 10 States in 2009.” Oregon was listed as one of the 10 states, and the VPC report was picked up by news outlets like the Huffington Post back in May 2012. That VPC talking point has been picked up again this month by USA Today and others in the wake of the tragic murders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

The VPC report states that for 2009, Oregon had 417 gun deaths1 and 394 motor vehicle deaths.

That is a horribly deceptive presentation of data.

Here’s what a detailed look at the 2009 deaths in Oregon reveals

  • The 413 gun deaths2 in Oregon in 2009 were:
    • 341 gun suicides
    • 55 gun murders
    • 7 gun deaths by the police or military
    • 5 deaths caused by gun accidents
    • 5 undetermined
  • In 2009, there were 1,577 accidental deaths in Oregon.
    • 433 were transportation-related
    • 5 were gun-related
  • There were twice as many deaths caused by bike accidents as by gun accidents in Oregon in 2009. There were 10 deaths caused by bike accidents, and 5 deaths caused by gun accidents.

The 2009 Oregon transportation-related deaths break out like this:

2009 Oregon Transportation Deaths table

Oregon Vital Statistics Annual Report 2009 Vol. 2 (pg 6-18)

Oregon Vital Statistics Annual Report 2009 Vol. 2 (pg 6-18)


To come up with their deceptive, headline-grabbing title “Gun Deaths Outpace Motor Vehicle Deaths in 10 States in 2009,” the Violence Policy Center “analysis” had to compare the number of Oregon deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents to the combined number of deaths caused by gun accidents, gun suicides, gun murders, gun deaths by the police or military and undetermined.

On the number of suicides, I noted in an earlier article,

Regarding the use of guns in suicides in Oregon – there does not appear to be a correlation between gun control and suicide rates. Sadly, people wishing to commit suicide appear to change the means when another is restricted. For example, according to the World Health Organization’s data, Japan has a much higher rate of suicide than the United States. In 2011, Japan had the 7th highest suicide rate in the world, and the U.S. was number 38. A 1999 New York Times article on the high rate of suicide in Japan noted “Because gun ownership is severely restricted in Japan, many Japanese resort to throwing themselves in front of trains, hanging themselves, jumping off cliffs or overdosing, the police say.”

UPDATE: Additionally, even with much stricter gun laws in Canada and the draconian gun laws in the UK, both those countries have the same rate of suicides as the U.S. – 12 per 100K.  Source: WHO data via Wikipedia (July 2014)

A note on sources:

1The Violence Policy Center source: WISQARS database, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2My source is the: State of Oregon – Oregon Health Authority – Public Health Division – Oregon Vital Statistics Annual Report 2009 Vol. 2

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