Why researchers are interested in violent deaths in Arizona

Why researchers are interested in violent deaths in Arizona

PIMA COUNTY, AZ ( Tucson News Now) - Researchers in Arizona are now part of a national study to prevent murder and suicides by connecting details from various agency reports.

The ASU Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety announced Monday that the Grand Canyon State will be the 32nd state to join the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Violent Death Reporting System.

"It's an important milestone for Arizona," said David Choate, the Center's Associate Director.

The CDC's system is meant to analyze records that are already on file with different agencies, like police logs and medical examiner reports. All the paperwork is pieced together in order to find connections and a bigger picture so that lives can be saved, according to Choate.

"It's really about not just reporting on but detecting those trends and patterns in these violent deaths in a way that will allow existing resources to be appropriated correctly, most efficiently and effectively," he said.

In 2012, 1,428 people died by murder or suicide in Arizona, according to the Center. More than a thousand of those deaths were suicides. Choate said teens and the elderly have a higher risk of suicide, and both demographics are larger in Arizona than the national average. Joining this national system could help reduce those deaths in our state, according to Choate.

"If there's a way we can change our programming, our messaging, our prevention opportunities that reduces it among those two groups then we've made a meaningful impact," he said.

What about guns

The reporting system will cover all forms of violent deaths, but Arizona's inclusion in the program has some gun owners skeptical.

Ken Rineer, President of Gun Owners of Arizona, said he's concerned that the CDC is in charge of the study. Rineer cited congressional action in the 90s that cut funding to the CDC's research involving firearms.

Decades later, Rineer said he doesn't have faith in the CDC and would rather see another agency handle the work.

"It can only go one direction because firearms, their intended purpose, their design, is to kill people," he said. "So obviously every situation where a gun is used where someone is shot, they're either going to be severely injured or they're going to be killed."

Rineer said any research won't include positive situations involving firearms that saved lives. He does not consider the issue to be a matter of public health, but one of rights.

"The right to bear arms is in both the Arizona constitution and the federal constitution," said Rineer. "It's a guaranteed right. It's a birth right."

Sharing information for the CDC's program is voluntary and research teams have already started contacting local law enforcement for records.

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