Firearm Deaths in the U.S.: the Data

We became aware of a new report today published by the Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, Davis. Titled The Epidemiology of FirearmViolence in the Twenty-First Century United States, it documents the rate of suicides and homicides in the U.S. by firearms compared to other means of killing.

Some interesting points taken from the charts in the report are:

  1. Motor vehicle deaths are more numerous than firearm deaths although the difference is rapidly diminishing (Figure 1).
  2. Firearm death rates for suicide are almost twice as high as firearm death rates for homicides (Figure 3).
  3. Homicide and suicide rates are highest in the 20-29 age cohort with suicides  the more numerous. Homicide rates decline exponentially with age while suicides do not change much overall. (Figure 4)
  4. Homicide rates among younger black males are more than 5 times that of Hispanics in the same age cohort (20-29) and 20 times more than for whites (Figure 5a). The racial skew is similar for black females (Figure 5b).
  5. The suicide rate for whites is greater than that for blacks or Hispanics with the highest rates occurring after the age of 70. (Figure 6)
  6.  In a comparison of 22 of the most developed states in the OECD, the U.S. ranks a low 20th for the rate of assaultive violence. Canada is last in 22nd place. (Figure 12)
  7. For firearm related deaths, the U.S. holds first place, almost triple second place Finland. Canada is in sixth place. (Figure 11)
  8. Using the same graph, Canada ranks third in the percentage of firearm homicides after the U.S. and Israel.

The report gives the following summary points (emphasis added):

  • The overall fatality rate from firearm violence has not changed in more than a decade.
  • Suicide is the most common form of fatal firearm violence (64.0% of deaths in 2012) and is increasing. Homicide is decreasing.
  • Homicide risk is concentrated to a remarkable degree among Black males through much of the life span. Mortality rates from firearm violence are very high and unchanged in this group.
  • Suicide risk is highest among White males beginning in adolescence. They also account for most fatalities from firearm violence and have increasing mortality rates.
  • As compared with other industrialized nations, the United States has low rates of assaultive violence but uniquely high mortality rates from firearm homicide and suicide.

For Canadians, racial and cultural differences with the U.S. make comparison difficult. Perhaps the most interesting data are those from the OECD in points 7 and 8 above. Canada has the third highest homicide rate. Since Israel’s may be due to the sectarian violence that permeates the Mideast and other Islamic nations, Canada’s rate as a general societal phenomenon may be second only to the U.S.

Despite this, assaultive violence in Canada is the lowest, even below Japan.

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