Gun Death Rate Nears Three-Decade High, With Men at Most Risk
Homicides of Black males and suicides among white males push up firearm fatalities
A record 48,953 deaths in the U.S. were caused by guns last year, a new study says.
By Dominique Mosbergen, WSJ
Nov. 29, 2022 2:19 pm ET
The rate of gun deaths in the U.S. reached a 28-year high in 2021 after sharp increases in homicides of Black men and suicides among white men, an analysis of federal data showed.
A record 48,953 deaths in the U.S., or about 15 fatalities per 100,000 people, were caused by guns last year, said the analysis published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open. Gun deaths declined in the 1990s, but have been rising steadily over the past decade and skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic, said researchers who conducted the analysis.
Gun-related deaths of women and children have risen, the analysis said, but men remain far more likely to die from guns.
“The disparities are so marked,” said Chris Rees, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.
Dr. Rees and his colleagues analyzed U.S. firearm fatality rates from 1990 to 2021 using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. have died from guns since 1990, the analysis showed.
“The magnitude of the numbers are incomprehensible,“ said Eric Fleegler, a study co-author and an associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Since 1990, rates of gun-related homicide have been highest among Black men aged 20 to 24, the analysis said, with 142 fatalities per 100,000 people in this group in 2021—a 74% increase since 2014. Homicide rates are as much as 23 times higher among Black men and as much as nearly four times higher among Hispanic men than among white men, the analysis said.
Gun fatality rates from suicide were highest among white men aged 80 to 84 years, at 47 fatalities per 100,000 people in this group in 2021—a 41% increase since 2007, the analysis showed.
Men remain far more likely than women to die from guns, but firearm deaths among women have increased more than 70% since 2010, the study said. More suicides and homicides among some groups drove the rate higher among women, Dr. Rees said.
“The trend of increasing firearm fatalities unfortunately crosses all sexes,” Dr. Rees said.
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Since the 1990s, the geographical distribution of firearm deaths has shifted, with gun death rates decreasing in the Western U.S. and increasing in the Southern U.S., researchers said.
Dr. Rees said the analysis, published soon after mass shootings in Virginia and Colorado, doesn’t answer why firearm deaths are increasing. But it does demonstrate that some groups are at higher risk from gun violence that policy changes could help mitigate, he said.
“For certain populations that are at higher risk of suicide, more suicide-prevention programs can be targeted at them,” he said. “For groups with higher rates of firearm-related homicide, there are certain programs like violence prevention, firearm-buyback programs and safe storage.”
Write to Dominique Mosbergen at email@example.com