In the 12 full years between the mass shooting tragedies of Columbine High School and the Aurora theater, which took the lives of 25 innocent people, 6,258 people died of gunshot wounds in Colorado.
Suicides accounted for 76 percent of the deaths from guns during the period, while homicides comprised 20 percent. The rest were either accidental, legal shootings by law enforcement or unexplained. Nationally, about 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides.
I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS – using data from the state health department and the U.S. Census Bureau, thousands of pages of police, coroner and court records, and numerous on-the-ground interviews – developed a sobering portrait of the state’s unremitting death by gun.
The analysis plotted all of those deaths by the census tract where each victim lived. Of the 1,249 census tracts in Colorado, only 80 escaped a gun death during the period of study.
Gun suicides were disproportionately committed by white residents, according to the I-News inquiry, while homicide victims were predominately minority. White residents, who make up 70 percent of the state’s population, accounted for 88 percent of the gun suicides. On the other hand, 58 percent of homicide victims were minorities, who comprise 30 percent of the state’s residents.
Blacks were victims in 21 percent of the homicides, but only make up 4 percent of Colorado’s population. Latinos were victims in 34 percent of homicides, while comprising 21 percent of the state’s population.
Mesa County had three of the four deadliest census tract neighborhoods in the state for gun suicides. El Paso County had the highest overall death toll from gun suicides, 596 over the 12 years.
Gun control laws continue to be highly contentious, and the two measures passed by the Colorado legislature last year on background checks and ammunition magazine size led directly to successful recall elections against two state senators who supported them.
And yet the most recent Quinnipiac Poll reported by The Denver Post showed an overwhelming 85 percent reported supporting background checks for all gun buyers. They narrowly approved, 49 percent to 48 percent, limiting ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.
“There’s some support for limiting multi-round magazines and overwhelming support for background checks,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of Quinnipiac’s polling.
Fifty-five percent of Coloradans said they opposed “stricter new gun control laws,” the poll reported.