Gunshots Project Update: Takeaways From 2017 Gun Deaths Data

May 22, 2018

Last year, 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 paper death certificates provided by the Vermont Department of Health.

This year, VPR worked with staff at the St. Albans Messenger to collect, enter and verify data from 2017. 

Trends remained steady in most cases. However, there were two notable changes in 2017:

  • This was the only year in the data set in which an accidental gunshot wound took a life.
  • Additionally, fewer current and former members of the U.S. armed forces died by suicide in 2017 than in any of the previous six years. 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE UPDATED DATABASE

2017 Takeaways

  • 66 people died from gunshots in Vermont.
  • 56 were male.
  • 91 percent of the deaths were suicides.
  • Of 60 suicides, 51 were white men.
  • There were 5 homicides. 
  • 9 of the deceased served in the U.S. armed forces. All died by suicide.

Updated Overview: 2011-2017

  • 486 people died from gunshots in Vermont, an average of 69 people per year.
  • 88 percent were male.
  • 89 percent were suicides.
  • 80 percent were suicides by white males. 
  • There were 52 homicides. At least five involved law enforcement.
  • Of 433 suicides, 123 served in the U.S. armed forces.
  • 1 person died from an accidental gunshot wound.

Here's how some of the 2017 data compares with the previous six years:

From 2011 through 2016, an average of 70 people died from gunshots per year in Vermont. In 2017, 66 people died from gunshots. 

Credit Data: Vermont Department of Health

Of those 66 gunshot deaths in 2017, 60 total — or 91 percent — were suicides. Over the previous six years, suicide constituted 89 percent of gun deaths. 

Credit Data: Vermont Department of Health

    

White men continue to die by suicide at a high rate. Between 2011 and 2016, 81 percent of suicide deaths by gunshot were white men. In 2017, 77 percent of suicide deaths by gunshot were white men. White men make up approximately 47 percent of the Vermont population.

Additionally, fewer current and former members of the U.S. armed forces died by suicide in 2017 than in each of the previous six years. 

Credit Data: Vermont Department of Health

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

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

CORRECTION: VPR has learned that medical examiners sometimes -- but not always -- document when a homicide occurs by law enforcement officer. This story has been updated to reflect that distinction.