Death due to injury by firearms includes deaths due to homicide, suicide, legal intervention, unintentional death by firearms, and firearm-related deaths of undetermined intent. Taken together, suicide and homicide have accounted for the vast majority of firearm-related deaths over the past 30 years—as high as 94 percent in 1994.16
Firearm-related death is a growing public health concern for all ages. It was a major contributor to death in 1994 and the fourth leading cause of years of potential life lost before age 65.17 However, the rate of firearm-related death among youth ages 15 through 19 is of particular concern, as homicide rates for this group rose dramatically in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly among black males. In addition, the rate of unintentional death due to firearms has historically been highest among youth ages 15 through 19. Overall, the rate of death due to injury by firearms doubled for youth ages 15 through 19 between 1980 and 1994, from 14.7 deaths to 28.2 deaths per 100,000. Since 1994, the firearm-related death rate has declined, and in 1998 it was at 16.3 deaths per 100,000 (see Table HC 1.6). The firearm-related death rate for youth ages 10 through 14, 2.3 per 100,000 in 1998, is considerably lower than the rate for older youth.18
Differences by Race. Among younger adolescents ages 10 through 14, and among females ages 15 through 19, the rate of death due to injury by firearms ranges from two to three times higher for blacks than for whites. In 1998, the rate of firearm-related death for black males ages 15 through 19 is almost four times the rate for their white peers, but it has decreased by 50 percent since 1993, when the rate was over five times higher than that of white males. Based on 1998 data, the rate for older black males decreased by 25 percent between 1996 and 1997, from 108.7 to 75.5 per 100,000. The high rate of deaths due to homicide among black males in this age group largely accounts for the high firearm-related death rate.19
Differences by Gender. Among blacks and whites in both age groups, firearm-related deaths are more prevalent among males; for example, the death rate for black females ages 15 through 19 was 8.0 per 100,000 in 1998, while the rate for their male peers was almost 10 times greater (75.5 per 100,000). Among whites ages 15 through 19, females experience firearm-related deaths at approximately one-sixth the rate of males.
Figure HC 1.6 Deaths due to injury by firearms (rate per 100,000) for youth ages 15 through 19 in the United States, by gender and race: 1990-1998a
Source: Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality Statistics Branch, Division of Vital Statistics, 2000.
Table HC 1.6 Youth deaths due to injury by firearms (rate per 100,000) in the United States, by age, gender and race: Selected years, 1980- 1998
Source: Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Health Statistics, Mortality Statistics Branch, Division of Vital Statistics, 2000; Murphy, 1999.
16 Ikeda, R.M., Gorwitz, R., James, S.P., Powell, K.E., & Mercy, J.A. 1997. Fatal Firearm Injuries in the United States, 1962- 1994. Violence Surveillance Summary Series (3). Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
18 Data for 1997 are preliminary, based on a sample of 85 percent of all deaths.
19 Refer to section HC 1.4 for further discussion of youth homicide.
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