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Firearm Deaths Reach Record Levels during 2021

December 02, 2022

Firearm deaths surged to a 28-year high during 2021 as the U.S. continues to contend with a “firearm mortality epidemic,” according to a new report published in JAMA Network Open this week.

The new report examines federal data from the last 30 years and outlines the growing toll of firearm deaths in the U.S. The report notes that these deaths declined from the early 1990s through 2004, before rising in subsequent years and peaking during 2021.

“Firearm violence is a worsening problem in the United States, as health disparities have widened in recent years,” three University of Michigan researchers wrote in commentary accompanying the report.

Among the key takeaways:

  • By the numbers:  There were nearly 49,000 fatalities (14.7 fatalities per 100,000) from guns during 2021, which is the highest total since the CDC began tracking injury fatalities data. During 2004, these fatalities declined to a low of 10.1 per 100,000.
  • Discouraging trends:  Firearm-related homicides were up to 22.5 times higher among Black men between 20 and 24 (141.8 fatalities per 100,000). Firearm-related suicides were highest among white men between 80 and 84 (45.2 fatalities per 100,000)
    • The number of men who die from firearms is considerably higher than women, but the firearm fatality rate for women has increased 71.4 percent from 2010 through 2021.
  • Concern for youth:  Firearm deaths are the leading cause of death in children between 1 and 19 and account for 20 percent of adolescent deaths.
  • Pandemic surge in firearms:  The surge of firearm sales during the pandemic meant that more than 16 million people had exposure to firearms in the home for the first time.
  • Quotable:  “These findings suggest that public health approaches to reduce firearm violence should consider underlying demographic and geographic trends and differences by intent,” the report notes.

“Only by counteracting the upstream and structural causes of firearm violence can we begin to curb the firearm mortality epidemic in the US for all people equally,” the Michigan researchers wrote.

Pennsylvania hospitals continue to focus on initiatives to address gun violence in their communities. This includes a commitment to hospital-based intervention programs that can make a difference and new approaches focused on prevention.

The JAMA report is available to review online.