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More Than 1,100 Murder-Suicide Deaths—From the Virginia Tech Massacre to Domestic Disputes—Occurred in 2007, New Study Estimates

Third Edition of Violence Policy Center Study "American Roulette" Estimates That Nine Murder-Suicides Occur Each Week in U.S., Vast Majority with Guns

WASHINGTON, DC--At least 554 Americans died in murder-suicides during the first six months of 2007 with the vast majority (88.5 percent) involving a firearm, according to the third edition of the Violence Policy Center's (VPC) study American Roulette: Murder-Suicide in the United States. Using these figures, the VPC estimates that more than 1,100 Americans died in murder-suicides in 2007. The murder-suicides included in the study range from high-profile mass shootings like the April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech massacre to familial shootings claiming the lives of spouses and children.

For the study, the VPC used a national clipping service to collect every reported murder-suicide in the United States from January 1, 2007 to June 30, 2007. Currently there is no national tracking system for these incidents. As a result, the VPC analysis is most likely the largest study conducted on murder-suicide.

Nine states had 10 or more murder-suicides in the six-month period of the study. In order, these states were: Florida (24), Texas (24), California (17), Pennsylvania (14), Arizona (12), Georgia (12), New York (11), North Carolina (10), and Ohio (10). Additional study findings from the six-month survey period include:

  • Of the 554 murder-suicide deaths, 234 were suicides and 320 were homicides. Ninety-five percent of murder-suicides were committed by men.

  • Nine murder-suicide events occurred in the United States each week during the study period.

  • Seventy-three percent of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner (spouse, common-law spouse, ex-spouse, or girlfriend/boyfriend). Of these, 94 percent were females killed by their intimate partners.

  • Forty-five of the homicide victims were children and teens less than 18 years of age. Forty-four children and teens less than 18 years of age were survivors who witnessed some aspect of the murder-suicide.

  • Most murder-suicides occurred in the home (75 percent).

VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand states, "From homes and businesses to schools and churches, murder-suicide wreaks havoc on American families and communities each year. Much more needs to be done to understand and prevent murder-suicide, including recognizing the key role that firearms play."

The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.

   For Release:
   Wednesday, April 9, 2008

   Mandy Wimmer
   Violence Policy Center
   (202) 822-8200 x110