A new report in the Annual Review of Public Health on gun deaths was just released and is making its way through the news. My husband and I will be in the UK and Europe again this spring, and I remember how inexplicable Americans’ affection for their firearms seemed to people living there, given how dangerous our gun culture is.
Here are some of the findings of the report:
Mortality rates for traffic accidents are now only slightly higher than for firearms.
While deaths from firearms declined dramatically in the mid-90s after a 30 year surge in the late 60s, the percentage of yearly deaths from suicide as compared to homicide has risen to 64%. Suicide is increasing; homicide is decreasing.
The four biggest mass killings of the century resulted in a total number of 84 homicides. But there is an average of 82.3 deaths from guns every day: 32.5 homicides and 49.8 suicides.
Homicide risk is highest among black males. Suicide risk is highest among white males and is increasing. Suicide risk for white males increases with age.
Owning a gun is the major risk factor for dying by firearm.
1.4% of firearm deaths are due to “legal intervention” – police shootings (2012 data).
Americans have low rates of assaultive violence, as compared to other industrialized nations, but uniquely high mortality rates from firearm homicide and suicide.
While I was still in graduate school, I learned that two former patients had shot themselves. A significant minority of patients throughout my career have had parents, grandparents, lovers, or children do the same. Dealing with the aftermath of suicide is uniquely messy and painful for everyone left behind. Jonathan Browning was one of my ancestors – it is a legacy I am very ambivalent about, to say the least.