According to a study released in August by Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, the number of firearm suicides outnumber homicides accomplished by guns. Based on information shared by county health agencies, the study showed that between 2008 and 2013, there were 6,729 gun deaths in the Mitten State. Of these 3,647 (54%) were suicides, 3,015 (45%) were homicides, and 67% were ruled accidental (1%). Both Detroit and Flint, were decaying infrastructure, outmigration, drug crime, and unemployment are still high, tended to skew the numbers for the state as a whole. When Wayne County, wherein resides Detroit, and Genesee County, wherein Flint is the seat, are brought into the mix, there were 3,809 firearms deaths during the six-year period described above. Of these 2,912 (76%) were suicides, while 897 (24%) were homicides. In Flint, in recent weeks there were 11 murders within 10 days. In Wayne County, about 75% of gun deaths were homicides. Not far behind the Motor City were Genesee County and Saginaw County, where approximately two-thirds of death by firearm were homicides.
 
Kayaking in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
 
Urban centers were not alone, however, in registering gun deaths. In fact, rural counties showed the highest rates of death by firearm. While Wayne County ranks Numero Uno in gun deaths (2,395 for 1.8 million people, 2008-13), or in other words 13.4 gun deaths per 10,000 residents, it was in five rural counties that there were even higher rates. In Alcona, Baraga, Oscoda, Luce and Keweenaw – all of which are in the scenic touristy northern part of the state, which have a combined permanent population of just 36,600, there were 49 gun suicides and five gun homicides between 2008 and 2013. This meant they had a gun death rate averaging 14.7 per 10,000 over the period. Therefore, the gun death rate is higher in those counties than all of Wayne County, including homicides in Detroit. 
 
Abandoned train station in Detroit
 
About half of all suicides recorded in Michigan involved firearms, according to the August study, which found that 49.5 percent of self-snuffing involved guns. The second most popular method was hanging/suffocation. Men outnumbered women in the use of firearms for suicide: 56% of men resorted to the practice as opposed to 26% of women. Moreover, men comprised 90% of gun suicides during the period. They committed 80% of all the suicides registered and accounted for 89% of all gun deaths. Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers were prominently represented: More than a third of all gun suicides were committed by people in the 45 to 64 year range (38%). Younger people, ages 25 to 44 accounted for 28%, while the Greatest Generation accounted for 22%. Younger Michiganders, aged 24 and younger, accounted for 13 percent.
 
While black males are predominant among victims of homicide via firearms, white men predominate in the category of gun suicides, according to a 2006 study. Data was not available for the 2008-20013 study, since there was no racial breakdown. The 2006 state study determined that 69% of those who lost their lives as victims of gun homicides were black men. This meant an average annual rate of 48.7% deaths per 100,000 per black male Michiganders. Additionally, in homicide cases where they perpetrator’s race was identified, 77% were found to be African-American.
 
 
White men committed 80% of gun homicides: an average yearly rate of 10.6 gun suicides per 100,000 white males residing in Michigan between 1999 and 2003. And gun suicide rates are climbing: during the 2008-2013 period, Michigan averaged 608 each year as compared to the average of 540 for 1999 to 2003: a 13% hike. Gun homicides also increased, averaging annually 502 per year during the 2008-2013 period as opposed to the rate of 494 for 1999 to 2003. This is an increase of 1.6 percent.
 
On the bright side for the State that Put America on Wheels, suicides actually outnumber vehicular deaths. In 16 of Michigan’s counties the number of firearm suicides exceeds the number of traffic fatalities for 2008-2013. For Oakland and Macomb counties, which are suburbs of Detroit, more people commit suicide with a firearm than lose their lives through traffic mishaps during the 2008-2013 period. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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