Health and Healthcare Systems

In 2016, half of all gun deaths occured in the Americas

Links of 7.62mm rounds wait to be packaged after coming off the production line at the BAE Systems Global Combat Systems Munitions Limited plant in Crewe, central England, June 8, 2011.   REUTERS/Phil Noble  (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS MILITARY) - LM1E7680Z8F01

There were a quarter of a million deaths from firearm injuries in 2016 Image: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Joe Myers
Writer, Forum Agenda
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Fragility, Violence and Conflict

Half of all firearm-related deaths in 2016 occurred in just six countries – all in the Americas – according to a study.

Brazil had the largest gun deaths toll, with over 43,000 people killed that year. The US was next with 37,200. It was followed by Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Guatemala.

Together these six countries accounted for 50.5% of the quarter of a million deaths from firearm injuries in 2016, a figure that includes homicides, suicides and accidental injuries.

“Gun violence is one of the greatest public health crises of our time,” lead author Dr Mohsen Naghavi said at the time of the study’s release last August. The study looked at deaths from 1990-2016 in 195 countries and territories across the world.

Regional hotspot

When it comes to gun deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, El Salvador had the highest rate of any country in 2016.

The factors driving high homicide and violent crime rates in Latin America are complex and nuanced – and of course vary across the region.

But as an example, an Inter-American Development Bank report from 2016 points to four key factors driving crime in the region’s cities:

1. Economic deprivation

2. Residential instability

3. Family disruption, school absenteeism and the population’s age structure

4. Alcohol consumption

Homicides of young men

Globally, nearly two-thirds of gun deaths in 2016 were the result of homicide, compared to just over a quarter for suicide and less than 10% for accidental injuries caused by firearms.

In the same year, nearly nine in 10 of those killed were men and the highest number of deaths was among people aged 20-24 (for men in this age group, an estimated 34,700 deaths compared to 3580 for women). The pattern that emerges is that most firearm-related deaths are homicides of young men.

Image: Health Data
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Are things getting better?

Yes and no.

In 1990, 209,000 people died from firearm injuries. The figure was 251,000 in 2016.

But the overall death rate did decrease slightly over the same period.

However, in every year apart from 1994 (the year of the Rwandan genocide), global firearm-related deaths were higher than global conflict and terrorism deaths.

And with nearly 700 deaths from firearm-related injuries every day, there’s a long way to go.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Health and Healthcare SystemsResilience, Peace and Security
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