Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review - Part I (gun-related crimes)

2011 is out, and 2012 is in.  Happy New Year's to you all.  I hope it has been a safe one for everyone reading this.

2011 was pretty deadly here in the Eugene / Springfield area of Oregon.  There have been 14 shootings reported in the media (though most suicides and accidents go unreported) in this small-town area.  This is the highest number of shootings for at least the last four years in my area (since I've been keeping track), and probably much longer.  9 dead, 6 injured.  That is only for my area, not for the rest of Oregon.  It has been a particularly deadly year in southern Oregon and over in the Coos Bay area, as well as Portland, but I'm not going into those here.

There were 2 murder/suicides in that number (here and here) in the Eugene area.  Questions still surround these, as there is no known motive for either of them, and no note.

For those of you convinced that drug dealers and gangs are responsible for most shootings, here in my area only 2 of the shootings are linked to them. Neither was fatal.  These don't count the accidental shooting (of a friend mistaken as a robber) at a medical marijuana grower in Springfield, or a shooting at another medical marijuana grower in Eugene.

There were also a record number of armed robberies.  A handful, 4 or 5, involved threats with knives.  About that many had only a note and no weapon.  But 27 armed robberies in my area had robbers who used guns.  Nearly all were of businesses or banks.  Luckily, none of them resulted in any injures.  And in none of them did anyone try to resist by drawing their own concealed weapon.  The bit of money the robbers were after is hardly worth a life-and-death shootout. 

There were two shootings at homes that were ruled as defensive, "justified" shootings.  One was a domestic dispute involving a property dispute between a man and his sister's partner, with questionable circumstances that led to the death of the brother (the shooter claimed he was attacked with a tire iron, but friends of the deceased claim the sister and her partner wanted the brother's land, and why did the partner walk out of the house to confront the deceased instead of calling the sheriff?).  The other was where two suspects invaded a legal marijuana grower's property to steal marijuana.  The homeowners pulled out a shotgun.  Can you guess who got injured?  Not the robbers. 

The shooting that made the most headlines was the death of a traffic cop, Officer Chris Kilcullen, at the hands of a dangerously mentally ill woman, Cheryl Kidd, during a traffic stop in April.  The shooter had been mentally ill for a long time, schizophrenic, and convinced that the police were out to shoot her.  She was so dangerously ill that her doctor had sent her to the hospital a couple months before to be evaluated.  Nonetheless, she had been able to legally purchase her gun at a local sporting goods store, clearing a background check.  (Oregon only sent two records of mentally ill persons to the NICS background check system in all of 2011, despite a legal mandate).  There is now a stretch of highway dedicated to Officer Kilcullen, but the best tribute would be to pass legislation to strengthen the background check system to prevent this from happening.  So far, that hasn't been done.

There were also a very few suicides reported (they only get reported if they are very public in some manner), a couple accidental shootings (one was of an off-duty police officer who, while at a shooting range, shot himself while trying to remove his loaded rifle from his car), and an assortment of non-fatal and general gun crimes of all types.  In all, there were at least 55 gun-related crimes that were reported in the media for my area, that I am aware of.  Who knows how many weren't reported in the media.  I occasionally hear of one or two, and gun crimes are so commonplace that most are not reported in all media outlets, just one or two, so unless I read them all every day (which rarely happens), then sometimes they get past me.

In my next post I will focus on our efforts to reduce gun crimes in my area in 2011, and our successes and obstacles.

Have a safe and happy New Year.  Together, we can work to create a new trajectory for our communities away from gun violence.

In Part II of this 2-part posting, I talk about our accomplishments and challenges from 2011, and how Ceasefire Oregon has worked to reduce gun violence in that year.

Image taken from here.


  1. "For those of you convinced that drug dealers and gangs are responsible for most shootings, here in my area only 2 of the shootings are linked to them."

    I'm convinced of it because it happens to be true, nationally speaking. But obviously, there is a great deal of variation regionally and locally. Areas that don't have gang problems clearly will not have a lot of gang-related violence, and large urban areas with a large gang presence and large illicit drug network will have more. As far as U.S. cities with a population of 250,000 or more go, Portland has one of the lowest murder rates and a relatively low violent crime rate.

    "but the best tribute would be to pass legislation to strengthen the background check system to prevent this from happening."

    How was this a failure of the background check system? The background check system can only be as good as it's database, and if mental health officials don't report what they should and don't supply accurate and sufficient data, then obviously people who shouldn't get guns are going to get them. This isn't a matter of insufficient gun laws. And what really can you even do, legislation-wise? It's already mandated that Oregon report people like that to the NICS system, and they didn't. Seems to me like some people should lose their jobs.

    Happy New Year!

  2. "The homeowners pulled out a shotgun. Can you guess who got injured? Not the robbers."

    You say that is if that's the normal outcome when a victim fights back. Any armed confrontation can go either way, and there's no "guess" that is more likely to occur than the other. Here are a few other examples from the last week or so:

    Robber Dead After Attempted Pawn Shop Robbery

    Philly Mother Pulls A Legally Registered Gun And Shoots Man As He Tries To Rob Her Son

    Man Shot During Attempted Robbery

    Kroger Employee Shoots, Kills Would-Be Robber

    Intruder Killed Despite Wearing Body Armor

  3. Interesting read. These stats show reported crimes involving guns. I imagine they don't include "shots fired" reports. In my side of Eugene, I hear gun fire all the time. As owner of Raven Recovery (, these statistics interest me. I'm going to keep track of what I see happening this year. I suspect there are more gun-related incidents than are officially reported.

  4. @ Guav: Regarding the NICS mental health reporting, it has to come from both sides. The state needs to stay on top of updating and sending information to the national database, which it is failing on. The other part is for health care professionals to identify those who are dangerous and report them to the state, which is also being failed on. Of course, to do so, they have to have guidelines to follow, in order to have the right balance between public safety and patient privacy. These guidelines are also lacking. So it needs change from all angles.

    Happy New Year's to you too.

  5. @ MayraMM: I would very much like to talk with you offline. Please email me:

    I'm quite certain that there are unreported incidents, particularly suicides. The only reports that make the media are typically homicides or very public other incidents. "shots heard" reports practically never make it to the media. Of course, let me know if you hear anything.

  6. Baldr: Yes, I agree completely that healthcare professionals need to identify those who are dangerous and report them to the state, and that the state needs to stay on top of updating and sending information to NICS. I just don't know what, if any, legislation can accomplish that, because aren't they already required to do that? If I was the family of Officer Kilcullen, I'd probably be trying to figure out who dropped the ball so I could sue the crap out of them.

    I would be willing to wager that, since Portland was rated America's Unhappiest City with a fairly high suicide rate, that the suicide rate dwarfs the homicide rate, and of course many or most of those suicides would probably have been carried out with firearms.

    Of course, I don't believe tighter gun laws would change the overall suicide rate—just method used—but I believe you're right, there are probably a ton of (firearm) suicides you are unaware of in your area.

  7. "but the best tribute would be to pass legislation to strengthen the background check system to prevent this from happening. So far, that hasn't been done."

    Remember how Einstein defined insanity? Can you deduce how it relates to the use of mandates to make failing mandates function?

  8. @ Hank: So you are suggesting that if a government policy doesn't work they shouldn't try to fix it? Hogwash.

  9. Hank- Unfortunately there's no evidence that Einstein ever said that, but your point remains.

    Baldr- No, problems should be fixed if possible, but I believe he's saying that attempting to fix a problem by using the same method that has not worked in the past is insane.

    Also, some things are never going to work perfectly no matter how you tinker with them, some will work great, and some won't work at all. It's important to correctly identify what works and what doesn't, and to discard policies that are ineffective (I'm speaking in general here).

    Out of curiosity, what sort of new legislation or "strengthening of the background check system" do you envision could have prevented this?

  10. @ Guav: Currently, I'm not certain there is legislation about reporting of dangerous patients from doctors to the state and national NICS database. I think it is voluntary on the doctors' part, in Oregon. There needs to be more of a requirement for it, along with clear guidelines about when to report it, and enforcement of this (holding the mental health doctors accountable if they fail to report, along those guidelines). Obviously, these guidelines need to be balanced with patient privacy, so patient advocates and doctors need to determine the guidelines, along with law enforcement. Currently there is no effort to do this, that I am aware of, in Oregon.

    Once reported to the state, there is already a legislated mandate for Oregon to report these to the national database, but here the problem is mainly enforcement and economic concerns. This should be fixed by legislation that is being introduced now in D.C. (the "Fix Gun Checks" bill).

    Of course, no law will catch 100% of cases. No reasonable person would expect it. But these fixes would certainly improve the situation. As I stated before, in all of last year only 2 cases were reported from Oregon to the national database. Some states didn't report any at all.

  11. Yeah, if some states didn't report any, then that seems like something that definitely needs to be fixed—either that or those states have nobody living in them with any dangerous mental health problems, which is obviously not the case.

    I hadn't considered the patient privacy aspect of this. It would seem that that might be a problem. Not sure what the solution is.