April 22, 2002
Gun control activists commemorated the three-year anniversary of the Columbine school shooting by releasing a report that links handguns and violent crimes.
The Champaign County Health Care Consumers presented findings of a recently released study on murder-suicides on Friday at the Champaign County Coroner's Office. The study, titled "American Roulette," was completed and released by the Violence Policy Center.
The study documented and recorded incidents of murder and suicide throughout the country through analysis of newspaper clippings during the first six months of 2001.
Brooke A. Anderson, one of the presenters and gun regulation project manager of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, admitted limitations existed in collecting data but that the study managed to convey the widespread effects of murder-suicides.
"I think part of the study attempts to show not only the breadth and diversity of murder-suicide incidents but also the commonality between those incidents," Anderson said. "It shows what people can do to implement preventive measures."
John Boch of the Champaign County Rifle Association said he gives little credence to the study because he feels it lacks legitimacy.
"It is really a simple report written up in a way that makes their position sound scientific and legitimate, when in fact it is really a collection of personal opinions opposing the rights of law-abiding Americans," Boch said.
According to the study, 662 Americans died from murder-suicides between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2001. Illinois had eight incidents resulting in 21 fatalities in that period.
Catherine Griffiths, another presenter and Midwest director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, provided the case of former Navistar International Corporation employee William Baker as an example. In February 2001, Baker used multiple firearms to kill four former co-workers and wound four others before shooting himself.
But Griffiths cautioned against believing the work place is the only place that murder-suicides happen.
"The most common type of murder-suicide actually occurred between two intimate partners in which a man or a woman killed their significant other and then killed their children," she said. "Nationally, over 90 percent of murder suicides involved firearms."
Both presenters acknowledged that a lack of information on the topic represents a need to enhance the process of data collection and dissemination. Griffiths noted the need to identify risk patterns and factors behind murder-suicides to encourage people to implement preventive strategies in their own homes .
"Exact information is not known, but estimates show that 40 to 50 percent of all households have guns," Griffiths said.
Boch said most gun opponents base their assertions on fear or lack of understanding.
"Guns are emotion-invoking objects to most people," he said. "Many people who don't understand them fear them. They fear what they don't understand or don't know."
Anderson said the information in the newspaper clippings was mostly limited to factual data. Cases were not investigated at length, she said.
"America has a tendency to glorify violence," she said. "But in none of the clips are you going to get the message 'take your guns out of your homes to protect yourself.'"