StateStats | Firearm-Related Deaths Drive Debates Over Guns


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Close to half of Americans know someone who has been shot. Nearly 40,000 Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2017, a 19% increase from 2012 and the highest since 1993, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number includes suicides (60%), murders (37%), those involved with law enforcement (1%), unintentional deaths (1%) and deaths with undetermined causes (0.1%). Between 2012 and 2017, murders increased by 25% and suicides by 15%. Guns continue to be the lethal weapon of choice for both, with firearms used in 75% of murders and 51% of suicides.

Two-thirds of gun owners say they have a firearm primarily for self-protection; 38% cite hunting and 30% cite sport shooting as major reasons they own guns. Opponents to gun restrictions point out that guns also save lives. They are used defensively anywhere from several hundred thousand to a couple million times a year, though these statistics often go unreported to the police and the media and are tracked less thoroughly, advocates say.

As far as multiple murders go, definitions matter. According to the Pew Research Center, the FBI defines active shooter incidents as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” The Gun Violence Archive defines mass shootings as “incidents in which four or more people—excluding the shooter—are shot or killed.” Using these definitions, 85 people died in 2018 in active shooter incidents, according to the FBI, and 373 were killed in mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

With proponents on both sides of the gun dispute able to cite studies supporting their viewpoint, debates will surely continue in legislative chambers this year.

—Julie Lays

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