For Release: Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Study Documents Six Months of Murder-Suicides Across Nation, Finds That Guns Used in 95 Percent of All Murder-Suicides, Estimates That at Least 1,300 Lives Lost Each Year to Murder-Suicide
WASHINGTON, DC – At least 662 Americans died in murder-suicides during the first half of 2001, and almost all (94.5 percent) were killed with firearms, according to American Roulette: The Untold Story of Murder-Suicide in the United States, a new study by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The study’s release follows a recent string of murder suicides across the nation from California to New Jersey.
The VPC study, based on news clips collected nationwide, is one of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted on murder-suicide. Using the VPC figures, more than 1,300 Americans die each year in murder-suicides. The study notes that murder-suicides range from high-profile mass shootings like the April 20, 1999, Columbine massacre to familial shootings claiming the lives of spouses and offspring.
Karen Brock, MPH, VPC Health Policy Analyst and study author states, “The enduring legacy of the Columbine tragedy must be the strong and clear message that guns are the catalytic component in murder-suicide. Just as important, it must be understood that the emotional factors that drive suicide can be all too easily turned outward on friends, family, co-workers and complete strangers because of the unmatched lethality of firearms. Every major murder-suicide study ever conducted has shown that a firearm with its unmatched combination of lethality and availability is the weapon most often used to murder the victims, with the offenders then turning the gun on themselves.”
For the study, the VPC used a national clipping service to collect every reported murder-suicide in the United States from January 1, 2001 to June 30, 2001. Currently there is no national tracking system for these incidents. As a result, the VPC study provides the most accurate portrait of murder-suicide in America possible.
Seven states had more than 10 murder-suicides during the study period: Florida (35), California (29) and Texas (29), Pennsylvania (17), New York (14), Virginia (12), and Ohio (11). The most common type of murder-suicide was between two intimate partners: 73.7 percent of all murder-suicides involved an intimate partner. Of these, 93.5 percent were females killed by their intimate partners.