By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gun safety advocates are pressing Minnesota lawmakers for new restrictions on firearms after the Parkland, Florida, school massacre.

Hundreds of protesters swarmed the Minnesota State Capitol after the Florida school shooting, demanding new firearm restrictions and making this unusual claim:

“Why is it that more Minnesotans are dying due to gun violence than opioid use and car crashes?” demanded Becky Sechrist, President of the Minnesota Public Health Association. “Why don’t we conduct research on gun violence like we do for traffic fatalities?”

We wanted to know if that’s true, so we went to the Minnesota Department of Health, which compiles data on mortality rates — a list they keep of how people die.

The most recent data show 43,050 people died in Minnesota in 2016. The leading causes of death are cancer, heart disease and accidental injury, but gun violence now plays a significant role.

The state Health Department reports 432 people in Minnesota died from guns in 2016, while 395 people died from opioids and 392 people died from traffic crashes.

But that’s not the whole story.

Of the 432 gun deaths in Minnesota, 332 were suicides. That means 77 percent of Minnesota gun deaths in 2016 from people who killed themselves, not someone else — and the Pew Research Center found it’s a trend in other states, too.

The Centers for Disease Control defines violent death as “death that results from the intentional use of physical force… against oneself, another person or a group or community.”

So when gun control advocates say: “More Minnesotans are dying due to gun violence than opioid use of car crashes”, we rate that statement: True.


Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check:

Minnesota Department Of Health Mortality Rates

2015 Minnesota Health Statistics Annual Summary

Minnesota Traffic Deaths

Pew Research Center: Suicide Rate Edges Up

Star Tribune: Minnesota Suicide Rate Is Up

CDC: Firearm Mortality By State

CDC: What Is The Definition Of A Violent Death?

Minnesota Public Health Association

Minnesota Health Department Vital Statistic Trends

Brady Campaign: Guns and Suicide

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action: Gun Control Not Associated With Reducing Suicides

Pat Kessler

Comments (11)
  1. Mj Kieffer says:

    Of the 332 people that used a gun to kill themselves how many used an AR type of gun? Which is what people are trying to have banned.

    Maybe the debate SHOULD BE on mental health…why are so many people committing suicide?

  2. Tom Myrick says:

    You are kidding me right? 43,000 Vs 432? And most of those self inflicted? Do we have a word for that Pat? Irrelevant? I know. Just trying to keep your job. Exactly what is that job now?

  3. But the older angry white females said “Gun violence”, suicide is not “Gun violence” so it’s not true if 77% of deaths are from suicide.

  4. The woman speaking in this news segment BECKY SECHRIST, has a Masters Degree and is the President of the Minnesota Health Association. Their MISSION is:

    “To create a healthier Minnesota through effective
    public health practice and engaged citizens.”

    This is their Legislative Agenda:

    “2017-2019 Legislative Priorities
    Support efforts to reduce health inequities
    Support public health funding – including increasing local public health grant funds and maintaining Statewide Health Improvement Partnership funding
    Support gun violence prevention efforts
    Support environmental health efforts to ensure healthy families, clean water, clean air, and a healthy climate
    2016 Legislative Priorities”

    THESE…are their CORE VALUES:

    To inspire effective public health leadership by offering opportunities for enhancing learning, skills and practice
    To advocate for public health policy that is grounded in SCIENCE-BASED EVIDENCE and social justice principles
    To effectively impact public health in Minnesota”

    YET she made the following FALSE UN-scientifically based statement at a rally at the Minnesota State Capital :

    “More Minnesotan’s are dying from gun violence thad opiod and car crashes.”

    In 2016 432 died from gun shots vs. 395 from opioids and 392 from car crashes …a total of 797 vs. a total of 432 from guns. BUT WAIT, her statement is even a BIIGER LIE when one looks at the gun deaths.

    Of the 432, 332 WERE …..SUICIDES !! YES, A whopping 77% of the deaths were SELF-INFLICTED ! This leaves only 100 out of a population of 5.5 MILLION who were killed by guns or .0018% of the population.

    SO I ASK: What is this woman’s true agenda? Why as the President of this organization is she NOT following its Mission Statement and Core Values Statement?

    Shouldn’t she be more concerned about who is committing suicide and why and how to prevent it? Shouldn’t she be more concerned about young people and their parents getting addicted to opioids? Shouldn’t she be concentrating on high school kids driving while distracted by Facebook and texting since THAT causes so many of the 392 deaths from car crashes and thousands of injuries from the same?

  5. How many resulted from police action and how many were ruled self-defense? Let’s flesh out the data.

  6. Hans Zink says:

    Ah! Pat Kessler, AKA Lead WCCO BullS***er is back with more of the same, BS. That’s all this guy knows how to do.

  7. Another story by Pat to fit into a certain agenda. Pat is correct when he says this is not the whole story. Pat’s doesn’t really compare apples to apples from my perspective. For example, for a true comparison one would consider the total number of overdose deaths. Picking only opioids could be compared to deaths by rifles or pistols but not all lumped into one. Then what would the study show? My point is in 2016 there were 637 drug overdoses in Minnesota which included opioids, heroin, psycho-stimulants, benzodiazepines and cocaine. This information I found at It paints a different picture now when you compare ALL overdoses to ALL gun deaths. A much more fair comparison in my mind.

  8. Tracy Hovde says:

    This commentary was misleading and inaccurate.

    You quoted statistics from the MN Department of Health. You stated that there were 432 gun related deaths in 2016. The MN Dept. of health states around 730 suicides are committed each year , 332 were by firearm as you stated and 398 were suicide by other means, a significant statistic which you conveniently omitted.

    Reality Check statement: “More Minnesotans are dying due to gun violence than opioid use or car crashes.” You rated the statement as True. This statement is not remotely accurate. You used the CDC aggregate category of “gun violence” although the CDC themselves clearly differentiates between “gun homicides” and “gun suicides.” If you had phrased the question in any other way the answer would be a resounding FALSE! You intentionally manipulated the terminology to yield a desired result and to further a specific agenda. False information like this only serves to reinforce the notion of a liberal media bias.

    Using your own numbers, the true and accurate number of gun related homicides in Minnesota was actually 100 (432-332) in 2016. The national estimate of gun homicides using an “assault style” rifle is 1.4% This is further verified by your own WCCO’s Jason DeRusha’s “Good Question: How many people are killed with assault rifles?” aired 2-12-2013, which stated between 1 and 2%. At the true 100 gun homicides per year, with 1-2% being inflicted by assault rifle, the actual yield is a total of I or 2 people per year for the entire State of Minnesota.

    Comparing your own data of opioid deaths (at 395) and car fatalities (at 392) puts the opioid and car statistics at 200 to 400 times the rate of gun homicides by assault rifle.

    The protests, media coverage, and proposed gun restrictions are all related to “assault style” rifles. This is clearly demonstrated by the stock Capital footage of the piece. There is little or no mention of the suicide epidemic, a staggering 730 in 2017. To be clear, because of recent tragedies, what we are talking about is AR styled rifles used to commit homicides.

    The fact is over 43,000 Minnesotans die each year and only ONE or TWO are by “assault style” rifles but that statistic doesn’t make for sensational news does it? In fact, it is barely news worthy. People look to the news to get accurate, unbiased, and truthful information so they can formulate their own opinions. It is irresponsible to report it in any other way and only serves to create further division between opposing views.

    My name is Mark Triebold, I am a legal and responsible gun owner, collector, and sportsman. I have a Collector’s Federal Firearms license and CCW permit. I am not a member of the NRA. I believe in reasonable gun regulation if it is done responsibly on a level playing field.

    The “Reality Check” question to be asked is “HOW MANY MIINESOTANS ARE KILLED BY ASSAULT STYLE RIFLES EACH YEAR?” Mr. Kessler, you are an acclaimed Journalist, do you have an obligation to make this right?

    Sincerely, Mark

    NOTE: To comment I was required to login via Twitter or Facebook. I do not have social media accounts so I logged in and commented, with permission, from my girlfriend’s account.

  9. Joe Fucile says:

    People committing suicide is not gun violence unless you can prove A: that is the only method people use to end their life B: you can prove they would not have committed suicide if you took away their firearm.

  10. WTH?! If you look up the MN DHS MN Health Statistics Annual Summary Report, the numbers are different. Page 42 shows 477 people died in motor vehicle accidents and if you add up the firearm related deaths you get 425. The break down of that is 332 suicides, 87 homicides, 4 accidents and 2 undetermined.
    I’m calling BS on this article.