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Gun-related homicides and injuries down as firearm sales soar

January 27, 2013 | Virginia News

Analysis shows deaths have decreased in Virginia despite a surge in business

BY MARK BOWES | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Gun-related homicides and serious injuries from gun assaults in Virginia have been trending downward for at least six years, and a new survey suggests the state’s booming gun sales have not triggered an increase in the proportion of people slain by a gun or who use a firearm to commit suicide.

Figures from Virginia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner show firearm-related homicides declined in four of the seven years from 2005 through 2011 — the latest reporting year available — from 357 killings to 242, for an overall decrease of 32 percent.

When state population increases are factored in, gun-related homicides fell 37 percent, from 4.72 deaths per 100,000 in 2005 to 2.99 in 2011.

Injuries from gun-related assaults in Virginia that required hospitalization have declined four of those same seven years from 392 injuries to 283, a drop of 28 percent, according to Virginia Department of Health records.

What’s more, “the increased availability of guns does not seem to correlate with an increase in the proportion of suicides and homicides by gun,” said Virginia Commonwealth University professor Thomas R. Baker, who in an analysis compared state vital records data on homicides and suicides with Virginia gun dealer sales estimates obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

“It’s actually quite surprising and the opposite of what I would have hypothesized,” Baker said. “I would have thought that aggregate increases in gun sales would directly correlate to aggregate increases in the proportion of suicides and homicides by gun. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

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