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U.S. Deaths from Firearms Reach Unprecedented Levels

Published: 2022-11-30 - Updated: 2023-01-03
Author: Emory Health Sciences | Contact: emory.edu
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes | DOI: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2799021
Additional References: Disability News in the Americas Publications

Synopsis: Study analysis shows the sheer magnitude of firearm fatalities in the U.S. over the past 32 years and the growing disparities by race and ethnicity, age, and geographic location. Researchers extracted the national number of firearm deaths and firearm fatality rates per 100,000 persons per year from 1990 to 2021 and examined the trends over time. There were 1,110,421 firearm fatalities in the U.S. during this period. As fatalities from firearms rapidly move up the list of the leading causes of death in the U.S., multiple interventions at various levels are needed to curb these increases effectively.

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Definition

American Gun Violence

Gun violence in the United States results in tens of thousands of deaths and injuries annually. Each day, more than 100 firearm deaths occur in the United States. In 2021, there were 48 953 fatalities from firearms, the highest number of firearm deaths recorded since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began tracking injury fatalities in 1981 - Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence - bradyunited.org/key-statistics

About 1.4 million people died from firearms in the U.S. between 1968 and 2011. This number includes all deaths resulting from a firearm, including suicides, homicides, and accidents. Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related homicide rate is 25 times higher. Although it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, among those 22 nations studied, the U.S. had 82 percent of gun deaths, 90 percent of all women killed with guns, 91 percent of children under 14, and 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed with guns, with guns being the leading cause of death for children - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States

Main Digest

Trends and Disparities in Firearm Fatalities in the United States, 1990-2021

Firearm-related violence and suicides have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, a new study published in JAMA Network Open is the first analysis to show the sheer magnitude of firearm fatalities in the U.S. over the past 32 years and the growing disparities by race/ethnicity, age, and geographic location.

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Using multiple data sets from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a team of researchers from Emory University and Boston Children's Hospital extracted the national number of firearm deaths and firearm fatality rates per 100,000 persons per year from 1990 to 2021 and examined the trends over time. There were 1,110,421 firearm fatalities in the U.S. during this period. While fatalities began a steady increase in 2005, the upward trajectory has accelerated in recent years with a 20% increase from 2019-2021.

To better understand the contributing factors leading to the staggering number of firearm fatalities since 1990, researchers dissected the numbers further by analyzing trends among specific populations in the U.S. The findings paint a bleak picture of a public health crisis that appears to be hitting certain demographics especially hard.

"In 2021, we reached the highest number of gun fatalities that have ever occurred in the U.S.," says Chris A. Rees, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and attending physician at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. "That alone is cause for concern, but when we look deeper into the data, the differences in firearm fatalities by demographic group and by intent (homicide vs. suicide) become more evident."

Maximum rates of fatalities by homicide amongst Black non-Hispanic men (141.8 fatalities/100,000 persons) significantly outpaced rates of fatalities among White non-Hispanic men (6.3 fatalities/100,000) and Hispanic men of the same age (22.8 fatalities/100,000 persons). The data does show there are also differences in fatalities by intent. Suicides were most common among White non-Hispanic men 80-84 years (45.2 fatalities/100,000 persons).

"Firearm fatalities accelerated dramatically during the COVID pandemic. Multiple potential factors have likely contributed to this, including severe economic distress, an erupting mental health crisis, and a significant uptick in the sale of firearms," says Eric Fleegler, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School and emergency medicine physician at Boston Children's Hospital.

Greyscale image of muzzle blast from a pistol being fired.
Greyscale image of muzzle blast from a pistol being fired.

Using New Methods for Visualizing a Public Health Crisis

To supplement the analysis, the team of researchers created heat maps to illustrate the evolving firearm violence epidemic visually. This is the first-time multidimensional heat maps have been created to elucidate variations in firearm fatality rates across demographic groups over time. When reviewing the heat maps, one component of the data that becomes clearer is that the rise in firearm fatalities is not being driven just by males.

White non-Hispanic females had increased firearm fatality rates during the period, mainly associated with increases in suicide, but still significantly lower rates than males. Among Black non-Hispanic females, the rate of fatalities by firearm-related homicide has more than tripled since 2010.

Further data stratification shows differing patterns based on geography.

"We used county-level data to measure the geographic distribution of firearm fatalities across the U.S.," says Rees. "Increases in firearm fatalities started in the West before spreading to the South, while homicide rates were mainly concentrated in the South during this period."

What Solutions are Needed?

The most obvious takeaway from the findings is that the increases in firearm fatalities are not consistent for all age groups and ethnicities. As the authors note in the recent publication, marked disparities by demographic groups, which are growing wider by the year, suggest that public health interventions need to be tailored to specific demographic groups and should consider differences by intent.

For example, suicide prevention efforts in the U.S. may be most helpful for older men. County-level rates can be used to pinpoint opportunities for community-based interventions, such as education for safe firearm storage, child access prevention laws, and violence intervention programs.

As firearm fatalities rapidly move up the list of the leading causes of death in the U.S., multiple interventions at various levels are needed to curb these increases effectively.

Also See:

Reference Source(s):

U.S. Deaths from Firearms Reach Unprecedented Levels | Emory Health Sciences (emory.edu). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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Cite This Page (APA): Emory Health Sciences. (2022, November 30). U.S. Deaths from Firearms Reach Unprecedented Levels. Disabled World. Retrieved January 27, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/news/america/firearm-death.php

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