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Official Calls For More Research On Oregon Gun Violence

OPB | Jan. 16, 2013 4:43 p.m.

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President Barack Obama issued 23 executive actions Wednesday to try and prevent gun violence. One overturned a ban on the Centers for Disease Control conducting research on guns. Kristian Foden-Vencil reports on how gun statistics are gathered in Oregon.

Each year, cities, counties, states and tribes can send their crime data to the FBI.  But it’s voluntary.

Sergeant Pete Simpson of the Portland Police says his agency includes crimes like murder, rape and assault in its reports, but the department doesn’t include gun information.

“It doesn’t necessarily get down to the details of were fire arms used in these cases, that’s a different statistical tracking if you will.” Simpson says. “And each city kind of does things differently.”

AR-15 rifle with a Stag lower receiver California legal (only with fixed 10-round magazine)

AR-15 rifle with a Stag lower receiver California legal (only with fixed 10-round magazine)

TheAlphaWolf/Wikimedia

In Portland for example, the city started tracking gun violence a few years ago, specifically as it relates to gangs. Last year, the department’s Gun Enforcement Team collected 45 handguns and 34 rifles. It also made 124 felony charges and 35 misdemeanor charges.  But Simpson says, these figures were not sent to the FBI. 

Some of the most comprehensive numbers on firearm-related deaths in Oregon come from medical examiners.

The Oregon Health Authority’s annual vital statistics reported 458 deaths due to firearms in 2010:

  • 376 were suicides;
  • 59 were homicides;
  • 14 were due to the actions of law enforcement agents while working;
  • four were unintended;
  • and in five cases, the manner of death could not be precisely determined.

State epidemiologist Doctor Katrina Hedberg says the data are important, and that more research is necessary. 

“We do need to look at who the people are who are dying by gun violence, or injured by gun violence, so that we can focus on whether they’ve got mental health issues, substance abuse issues, a number of those things,” Hedberg says.

She says authorities also need to look at which guns are being used and the settings where shootings happen, for example: at schools or at home.

A statement from the CDC says the agency has conducted research on a variety of topics that can relate to guns, like youth violence, domestic violence and sexual violence.  The CDC’s statement says it will begin developing research into gun violence immediately.

The National Rifle Association issued a statement in response to the president’s actions Wednesday.  The NRA says only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected. The statement does not directly address the research issue.

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