Resilience, Peace and Security

US gun deaths are at their highest rate in 40 years

Pastor John Hannah of New Life Covenant Church leads a march and pray for our lives against gun violence in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Lott - RC13A36C4A70

Firearms were used to kill 39,773 people last year. Image: REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Emma Charlton
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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You may not be surprised to learn that US gun deaths climbed to a record in 2017.

What might surprise you is that the large majority of those fatalities occurred when someone turned the gun on themselves.

Firearms were used to kill 39,773 people last year, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which has tracked those deaths since 1979. That compares with 28,663 in 2000.

Image: Source: CDC

Suicide by shooting accounted for 60% of the total, and that’s on the rise too, increasing to almost 24,000 people.

Understanding variations in the types of gun deaths could help inform policy makers and ultimately lower the number of fatalities. Ease of access to a firearm at a moment of hopelessness can influence the outcome, according to research from the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, which said that gun-related suicides are more concentrated in places with higher firearm ownership and looser gun legislation.

That’s backed up by research from the JAMA network, which said “estimates of the number of firearms by country were associated with higher rates of firearm suicide”.

Image: Source: CDC

Around the world, the majority of firearm deaths are homicides, at about 64%, while 27% are suicides and 9% are unintentional, according to the JAMA report.

That report found six countries are responsible for a large majority of global gun deaths, the US is among those six, alongside Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela.

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