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Gunshots Project Update: Takeaways From 2018 Gun Death Data

A pistol on a whit background.
Taylor Dobbs, Emily Alfin Johnson
VPR used data provided from the Vermont Department of Health to update its database of Vermont gun deaths dating back to 2011 to now include deaths from 2018.

More people died from gunshots in Vermont in 2018 than any year since at least 2011, according to the most recent update to the Vermont Public Radio gunshot database.

In 2017, Vermont Public Radio published an investigation into gun deaths in Vermont. Reporters and volunteers compiled a database of gun deaths in Vermont from 2011 through 2016, based on death certificates provided by the Vermont Department of Health.

Last year, VPR worked with staff from the St. Albans Messenger to update the database with records from 2017.

For the 2018 update, VPR used Department of Health data.


2018 Takeaways

  • 82 people died from gunshots in Vermont. 
  • 70 decedents were male and 12 were female.
  • 85% of the deaths were suicides.
  • There were 12 homicides.
  • At least two of the 12 homicides involved law enforcement officers.
  • 10 of the deceased served in the U.S. armed forces. All died by suicide.

Updated Overview: 2011-2018

  • 568 people died from gunshots in Vermont, an average of 71 people per year.
  • 88% of the decedents were males.
  • 88.6% of the deaths were suicides.
  • There were 64 gun homicides. At least seven involved law enforcement.
  • Of 503 suicides, 133 served in the U.S. armed forces.
  • One person died from an accidental gunshot wound.

Here's how some of the 2018 data compares with the previous years:

More people died from gunshots in Vermont in 2018 than any other year since 2011 — although there were less suicide deaths by gun in 2018 than there were in 2011 or in 2016.

Gun deaths in Vermont from 2011-2018, broken down by year
Credit Data: Vermont Department of Health

Sixteen more people died from gunshots in Vermont during 2018 than in 2017.

There were 12 gun homicides in 2018, tying 2015 for the highest yearly total in the data we have going back to 2011.

Note: When we are talking about gun deaths classified as homicides, that's the terminology the Department of Health uses when a person has been shot by another person — it is regardless of motive and doesn't carry any criminal or legal implication.

A bar graph that shows the number of suicide gun deaths in Vermont from 2011-2018, broken down by sex
Credit Data: Vermont Department of Health

In 2018, 70 of the 82 gun deaths in Vermont were suicides. Of the 70 suicides, 90% of the decedents were male.  

The youngest person to die in Vermont from a gunshot was an 18-year-old male and the oldest was a 90-year-old man; both were suicides.

Between 2011 and 2018, more than one in four of those in Vermont who died by gun suicide — 26.4% — had served in the U.S. armed forces.

Suicide gun deaths in Vermont by members of U.S. Armed Forces from 2011-2018.
Credit Data: Vermont Department of Health

Snapshot: Gun Laws & Programs In Vermont

2018 was a notable year for gun legislation in Vermont, as Gov. Phil Scott signed multiple gun control bills into law. This batch of new laws included the creation of extreme risk prevention orders, which give law enforcement the ability to take potentially dangerous individual's guns away. Lawsuits were filed challenging the constitutionality of the new gun laws.

During the 2019 session, lawmakers considered another round of gun legislation. A bill that implements a waiting period for gun purchases, as well as tasks the Agency of Human Services with analyzing the impact the extreme risk prevention orders have on suicide rates in Vermont, passed both the Senate and the House. As of Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott hadn't indicated how he planned to act on the legislation. [Update 6/10/19 8:22 p.m. — Scott vetoed the bill.]

At the University of Vermont, a new research project has just secured funding to investigate and develop ways for health care providers to have difficult conversations around gun safety and storage. Assistant professor Tom Delaney is working on this with UVM Medical Center doctors Rebecca Bell, who works in the pediatric ICU, and Richard Wasserman.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the Vermont Agency of Human Services has been working to integrate a program called “Zero Suicide” in doctors offices around the state. And according to Alison Krompf, from the Vermont Department of Mental Health, additional programs are still in the works to address suicide and gunshot deaths across the state.

Here are some resources if you or someone you know is considering suicide:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Veteran Crisis Line & Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1
  • Crisis Text Line: 741-741
  • Vermont Suicide Prevention Center:
  • In emergency situations, call 911.

Sawyer was our spring 2019 news intern.
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