Report: More Arizonans die from gunshot wounds than road accidents

Arizona is one of ten states with more gun deaths than traffic deaths.

Report: More Arizonans die from gunshot wounds than road accidents

CREATED May 29, 2012

Reporter: Claire Doan

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – An eyebrow-raising comparison: More people in Arizona die from gunshot wounds than car crashes. That is according to a recent report by the Violence Policy Center – and it has a lot of people talking about the impact – if there should be any – on gun control in this state.

There are two ways to look at the study: that the data compare apples to oranges in the effort to sway policy; or that the information is indeed legitimate and people should reexamine the gun laws in this state.

Carol Gaxiola understands the debate over gun rights and she also knows full well the lasting impact of gun violence.

“My daughter Jasmine was murdered in 1999 by a gun in a private sale without any background check at a local gun show,” Gaxiola told 9 On Your Side.

She believes the Violence Policy Center study is alarming. It shows that Arizona is one of 10 states where gun deaths outnumbered traffic deaths in 2009: 856 to 809.

“There will always be criminals who can own guns, but I think that easy accessibility to firearms begs a more violent environment,” Gaxiola said.

Ken Rineer, the president of the Gun Owners of Arizona, disagrees. He said the group initiating the study has skewed statistics to advance its agenda.

“The Violence Policy Center, as an organization on the whole, is probably one of the most rabid anti-gun organizations on the lot, even more so than the Brady Center,” Rineer said.

Rineer believes owning a gun is a natural right and the best form of self defense, adding that it’s not surprising to see traffic deaths decline because of increased safety features in vehicles.

“As a political activist, I expect the opposition – those who oppose the right to keep and bear arms, to use statistics,” said Rineer, who’s not the only skeptic.

“I took a bit of heat last year for taking the position that I don’t think public parks or university classrooms were intuitively smart places to carry firearms. I continue to take that position, but I’m not necessarily buying in the data that the survey claims,” said Councilmember Steve Kozachik.

However, Gaxiola believes the research highlights the need to a fix a broken national background checks system and said the cost to society – with the courts and the jails – only adds to the emotional toll for victims that criminals will never understand.

“Certainly shattered my life. Changed my life 100 percent, 1,000 percent, and they didn’t even know me,” Gaxiola said.

According to the Violence Policy Center, the number of traffic deaths nationally is higher than gun deaths: roughly 36,000 road fatalities versus 31,000 gun deaths.