A study of national data finds that gun deaths are twice as high among black Americans as they are among white Americans. Also, rates of firearms-related fatalities do not necessarily correspond to the gun control legislation of individual states.
Previous research has shown that firearm violence increased during the 1980s, peaking in 1993 with a recorded 39,595 gun-related deaths – a rate of 15 deaths per 100,000 people. About three times as many black people died in gun-related fatalities than white people in 1993.
Since 2000, the rate of gun-related deaths has been 10.3 per 100,000, accounting for 17.5% of all injury deaths. Also since 2000, research has shown that the racial gap between white and black firearms fatalities has narrowed, with black Americans now comprising twice as many firearms fatalities than white Americans.
However, despite the stability of the rate of firearms-related fatalities over the past decade, the new study – which is published in BMJ Open – finds wide variation in firearms deaths by ethnicity and state.
The researchers, from Columbia University in New York, examined data from the Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System on all recorded murders, suicides and unintentional shootings between 2000 and 2010.
They found that the national rate of gun deaths remains twice as high among black Americans as it does among white Americans. But this gap was shown to have narrowed across seven states and DC. Among Hispanic people, rates of gun deaths fell in four states and rose among non-Hispanics in nine states.
Due to a rise in gun-related deaths among white and non-Hispanic people, and an increase in the number of murders using guns, the rates of gun death was shown to have risen in Florida and Massachusetts.
Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia all exhibited a fall in firearms-related deaths that was mostly among black and Hispanic groups.
The state with lowest recorded rate of firearm-related fatalities was found to be Hawaii, with 3.02 gun deaths per 100,000 citizens. The state with the highest number of gun deaths was the District of Columbia, with 21.71 firearm deaths per 100,000 people.
A fall in firearms-related fatalities in California was attributed to a reduction in suicides.
The study also found that, nationally, unintentional shootings had fallen significantly. However, there had been little change in the numbers of murders and suicides using guns.
Interestingly, the authors found that patterns of gun fatalities did not always correspond with the gun control campaigns and legislation of individual states.
Medical News Today spoke to author Bindu Kalesan, assistant professor at the Department of Surgery and Epidemiology at Columbia, who told us that while gun control laws mapped neatly onto death rates for Florida, New York and California in the study, in states such as Arizona, Massachusetts and Nevada – where death rates did not follow legislation – “the differences in temporal patterns in race/ethnicity was found to drive the patterns.”
“These changes could be explained by a variety of other factors such as influx of guns from neighboring states into a state with restrictive laws or due to policing strategies driven by race/ethnicity in these states. For example, in Texas with weak gun control legislation, we observed an overall moderately high gun death rate with no change, but a decline in gun deaths among Hispanics and increase among non-Hispanics.
These wide differences between states show that gun violence is a complex, multi-faceted problem and very unique to each state. Conclusive evidence and identification of the individual-level, society-level and political-level factors will require further research.”
On the issue of whether current gun control efforts are effective, Kalesan states that “on average, there were 84 gun deaths per day from 2000 to 2010. This statistic alone highlights the lack of effective gun control laws in the US.”