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Reality Check: Gun Deaths In Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Gun safety advocates are pressing Minnesota lawmakers for new restrictions on firearms after the Parkland, Florida, school massacre.

Hundreds of protesters swarmed the Minnesota State Capitol after the Florida school shooting, demanding new firearm restrictions and making this unusual claim:

"Why is it that more Minnesotans are dying due to gun violence than opioid use and car crashes?" demanded Becky Sechrist, President of the Minnesota Public Health Association. "Why don't we conduct research on gun violence like we do for traffic fatalities?"

We wanted to know if that's true, so we went to the Minnesota Department of Health, which compiles data on mortality rates -- a list they keep of how people die.

The most recent data show 43,050 people died in Minnesota in 2016. The leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease and accidental injury, but gun violence now plays a significant role.

The state Health Department reports 432 people in Minnesota died from guns in 2016, while 395 people died from opioids and 392 people died from traffic crashes.

But that's not the whole story.

Of the 432 gun deaths in Minnesota, 332 were suicides. That means 77 percent of Minnesota gun deaths in 2016 from people who killed themselves, not someone else -- and the Pew Research Center found it's a trend in other states, too.

The Centers for Disease Control defines violent death as "death that results from the intentional use of physical force... against oneself, another person or a group or community."

So when gun control advocates say: "More Minnesotans are dying due to gun violence than opioid use of car crashes", we rate that statement: True.


Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check:

Minnesota Department Of Health Mortality Rates

2015 Minnesota Health Statistics Annual Summary

Minnesota Traffic Deaths

Pew Research Center: Suicide Rate Edges Up

Star Tribune: Minnesota Suicide Rate Is Up

CDC: Firearm Mortality By State

CDC: What Is The Definition Of A Violent Death?

Minnesota Public Health Association

Minnesota Health Department Vital Statistic Trends

Brady Campaign: Guns and Suicide

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action: Gun Control Not Associated With Reducing Suicides

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