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A comparison of firearm-related death rates in selected Oregon counties.

By Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon

Numbers from 2005 – 2014 about firearm-related deaths in Deschutes, Multnomah, Klamath, and Linn Counties. For comparisons, I highlighted Multnomah County because it has the highest population and is the most urban. I highlighted Klamath because it ranks third (behind Curry and Baker) in firearm-related death rates but Klamath has a larger population for better comparison. (Klamath has 66,000; Baker, 16,000; and Curry 22,000 rounded.) I highlighted Linn because it was comparable in population size to Deschutes.

All rates are per 100,000 people.

Deschutes County:

  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 12.16 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 11.20
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 0.64
  • Population: 163,000 (rounded)

Multnomah County:

  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 8.88 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 6.41
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 2.07
  • Population: 757,000 (rounded)

Klamath County:

  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 21.60 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 16.47
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 4.08 (No, that is not a typo.)
  • Population: 66,000 (rounded)

Linn County:

  • Average yearly death rate from firearms: 10.57 per 100,000
  • Average firearm-suicide rate: 9.01
  • Average firearm-homicide rate: 0.95
  • Population: 118,000 (rounded)

Data from

An additional comparison: Chicago’s firearm-homicide rate is 16.4 per 100,000 (2010-2015). Even Chicago, however, is much lower than that of New Orleans (46.9), Detroit (45.0), or St. Louis (43.8) for the same time period. [Sixty percent of guns recovered in crimes in Chicago were first sold in other states, many with weaker gun laws. A small handful of gun stores, three from Cook Country and one from Gary, Indiana, continue to be responsible for a disproportionate number of crime guns recovered on Chicago’s streets.]  (Source: “Is Chicago Really America’s Most Dangerous City?”)

Further studies are needed to determine if firearm-homicide rates in Jefferson (4.62), Klamath (4.08), Malheur (2.26), Coos (2.22), and Josephine (2.06) Counties could be reduced with immediate access to Level 1 trauma centers. The same question should be asked of firearm-suicide rates. (Approximately 85-90% of firearm-suicide attempts are immediately lethal.)

One must question if providing effective suicide prevention support–including educating people about Extreme Risk Protection Order–and investigating firearm sellers who violate SB 941 by not performing background checks for gun sales, would reduce firearm-related deaths. SB 941 took effect in 2015 and ERPO took effect in 2018. Data could be available next year to determine if SB 941 is effective in reducing firearm-related deaths in counties which enforced the law.

Note: The counties with the highest rates of firearm-related deaths all have or have had* a sheriff who publicly refused to support SB 941 (background checks for almost all firearm sales). (Curry, Klamath, Coos, Josephine, Douglas Counties).

*Mr. Skrah (Klamath County) is no longer sheriff after he was found guilty on five counts relating choking and harassment. Skrah was cleared of a charge of strangulation. Skrah stated (without irony), “And if you send me to jail, I don’t know if I can defend myself,” even though he faced jail time for fourth-degree assault. Mr. Gilbertson is no longer sheriff of Josephine County after he was defeated in the last election. Gilbertson, who faced charges of stolen valor, was replaced by Dave Daniel who also states he will ignore Oregon law.