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PolitiFact: Cordray on point about increase in firearm deaths in Ohio

Posted: 9:58 AM, Apr 13, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-13 09:58:55-04
PolitiFact: Cordray on point about increase in firearm deaths in Ohio

Richard Cordray, a Democrat who has supported gun rights in the past, is playing defense during the Ohio primary for governor on his position on guns.

Cordray received an A grade from the NRA and was endorsed by the Buckeye Firearms Association in 2010 when he ran for Ohio Attorney General. But during this campaign he has stated his support for some changes to gun laws, including universal background checks and raising the age to purchase a firearm to 21 in Ohio.

One of his May 8 primary opponents, Dennis Kucinich, has portrayed Cordray as soft on guns and attacked him for helping a gun-rights group hold a rally in 2010.

On his 2018 campaign website, Cordray has raised concerns about homicide and suicide gun deaths.

"The numbers are truly alarming," Cordray wrote, and then cited a series of statistics about gun violence including this one: "Since 1999, firearm deaths in Ohio have risen 58 percent."

Cordray is correct about the increase in firearm deaths in Ohio since 1999. Although he didn’t address the reasons behind the increase, we will explain some of the evidence about the increase.
CDC data

Cordray’s campaign pointed to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing the increase in firearm deaths. There were 8.28 firearm deaths per 100,000 residents in Ohio in 1999 rising to 13.12 in 2016 -- an increase of 58 percent. There was an increase in both the rate of firearm deaths in suicides and homicides.

 Cordray used a CDC set of data that started in 1999. But if we looked back a few years earlier in the 1990s, we found a higher rate of firearm deaths -- for example 11.73 in 1991. So if Cordray had drawn on a comparison from an earlier year in the 1990s, it wouldn’t show as much of a contrast as comparing 1999 and 2016.

Why did gun deaths increase in Ohio

Why gun deaths have increased in Ohio is the more difficult question to answer -- something that Cordray didn’t comment about on his website.

Randolph Roth, co-founder of the Historical Violence Database at Ohio State University, told PolitiFact that there has been a tremendous surge in homicides in recent years in Ohio’s major cities.

The year 2016 was Cleveland’s deadliest year in a decade. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Cleveland's uptick in homicides was particularly significant but continued an upward trend that began in 2014 and intensified in 2015.

Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, pointed to the opioid crisis as a factor in the increase in homicides in Ohio. Using CDC data, he showed that the increases in firearm deaths are primarily in the midwest and Ohio.

"The opioid increase is disproportionately concentrated in the midwest and also concentrated among whites," Rosenfeld told PolitiFact.

Rosenfeld elaborated on that point in a 2017 paper for the National Institute of Justice in which he called for more research on the causes behind the homicide rise.

Jim Irvine, a volunteer with the Buckeye Firearms Association, noted that CDC data shows an increase in suicides overall and that "guns are one of several methods/tools used."

CDC data shows that the rate of suicides both by firearms -- and without firearms -- increased between 1999 and 2016 in Ohio.

The Buckeye Firearms Association hasn’t endorsed in the Democratic primary but did endorse Attorney General Mike DeWine in the Republican primary. The association endorsed Cordray for Attorney General when he ran against DeWine in 2010.

Our ruling

Cordray said on his website that "since 1999, firearm deaths in Ohio have risen 58 percent."
Data from the Centers for Disease Control showed that there were 8.28 firearm deaths per 100,000 residents in Ohio in 1999 rising to 13.12 in 2016 -- an increase of 58 percent. Firearm deaths in suicides and homicides increased.

If Cordray had selected an earlier year in the 1990s, the contrast would not have been as extreme when there was a higher rate of firearm deaths. However, his comparison of 1999 and 2016 is one valid way to examine the data.

We rate this claim Mostly True.