Over 1 million people in US have been killed by firearms over past 30 years, data show
Gun-related deaths in the United States are the highest they have ever been in nearly 30 years, new research shows.
The findings of a new study published in JAMA Network Open on Tuesday show that 1,110,421 people have been killed both intentionally and accidentally by a firearm between 1990 and 2021.
“That is roughly the number of people who have died from COVID in the last couple of years,” said Boston Children’s Hospital doctor Eric Fleegler, one of the authors of the study.
Findings show that firearm deaths reached a low in 2004 of about 10 for every 100,000 people in the U.S.
But that rate began to climb back up in 2010, eventually increasing by 45.5 percent to 14.7 firearm deaths per 100,000 people in 2021.
The study’s findings show that there was an “incredible leap” in gun-related deaths during the first two years of the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021 there was a 25 percent increase in firearm deaths in the United States, a number that Fleegler said “almost defied imagination.”
During those two years, there was a 40 percent increase in homicides committed using a firearm and a 17 percent increase in suicides by firearm compared to 2004 rates, Fleegler added.
It is not clear what is driving the spike in firearm deaths, but Fleegler believes pandemic-related job losses, economic instability and a severe lack of mental health resources have played some role in the spike.
But a surge in Americans buying guns during the early days of the pandemic might have also contributed to the striking rise in firearm-related deaths since 2020, Fleegler said.
One 2021 study found that between January 2020 and April 2021 about 5 million Americans became gun owners for the first time.
Researchers looked at data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to map out where the country’s gun deaths were taking place and who was being the most impacted. They used the data to create a series of heat maps that show how the location of firearm deaths has “evolved” over time.
Lead author of the study Chris Rees from Emory University School of Medicine notes that in the 1990s, firearm deaths were clustered in the western part of the country.
But the frequency of firearm deaths gradually increased across the country with noticeable spikes in southern states.
Study crafters found extreme gender disparities; during the study years, men made up about 85 percent of those killed by a firearm.
White men were the most likely to use a firearm to die by suicide, especially among the elderly. Firearm suicide rates were the highest among white non-Hispanic men between the ages of 80 and 84 at a rate of about 46 deaths per 100,000 people in 2021.
Meanwhile, non-Hispanic Black men in their early twenties were the most likely to be killed by a firearm in a homicide, at nearly 22 times the rate of white men of the same age.