New Research: Death by Firearm 10 Times More Likely in America

SP2 Logo Tagline 1 Final BlackA study published late last year in the American Journal of Medicine illustrates a great disparity in violence between America and other countries.

The study, “Violent Death Rates: The US Compared with Other High-income OECD Countries,” used 2010 World Health Organization mortality data to compare rates of violence in the United States against the rates in other high-income and well-populated countries. The study included 23 countries in total and conducted a comprehensive analysis of violence trends and rates, illuminating stark statistics about violence and death in the United States.

The study’s authors, Erin Grinshteyn of the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada-Reno and David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health, note that their conclusions find an “enormous firearm problem” in the United States, and call into question current research associated with gun violence.

Results found that in comparison to other countries, Americans are exposed to severely heightened risks of violence, particularly firearm violence. Americans are seven times more likely to be violently killed, 25 times more likely to be violently killed with a gun, eight times more likely to commit suicide using a gun, and 10 times more likely to die from a firearm death overall.

When analyzing gun-related incidents of violence in Philadelphia, “Two-thirds are suicides, the rest are mostly homicides,” notes Shira Goodman, executive director of the advocacy organization CeaseFirePA. “I think that’s too many even if violent crime is going down overall. With 200-350 gun deaths yearly in Pennsylvania, that’s 200-350 people whose families’ lives are irrevocably affected.”

According to the 2010 World Health Organization data, more than eight in 10 gun-related deaths occurred in the United States. Nine out of 10 women and children killed by guns were in the United States.

Between 2003 and 2010, the United States firearm death rate remained unchanged while firearm death rates in other countries decreased. Thus, the already high relative rates of firearm homicide, firearm suicide and unintentional firearm death in the United States compared with other high-income countries increased during these years.

“Guns play a very serious role in violent crime and suicides and accidental shootings, and I think we know how to solve some of the problems,” said Goodman.

Grinshteyn and Hemenway’s new research bolsters the dearth of gun violence research. Current gun violence research expenditures are dwarfed by other public health and research initiatives.

This disparity can be exemplified in the public expenditures toward traffic safety. Guns and motor vehicles are the second and third largest contributors to years of potential loss of life, respectively. More than 33,000 people are killed in vehicle crashes and by firearms each year.

In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal agency devoted to motor vehicle safety, was appropriated $830 million, which starkly contrasts the $5 million appropriated to the federal government’s Injury Center to prevent firearm-related injury and death.

Although U.S. firearm incidents have not fluctuated much in recent decades, the gap between firearms incidents and motor vehicle crashes was lessened by the large drop in Americans killed in car accidents over the last twenty-five years.

Much of the lack of research, particularly at the federal level, can be attributed to a 1996 congressional action that re-appropriated the $2.6 million spent the previous year on gun violence research to other research unrelated to guns. This reallocation of resources was backed by the National Rifle Association and allies in Congress. Two decades later, congressional efforts to prompt additional gun violence research have been continually stifled. Since 1996, CDC spending on gun violence research has fallen 96 percent to just $100,000 of an almost $6 billion budget.

That set us back a lot,” said Goodman of CeaseFirePA. “We need more data, we need more sharing of data. Helping researchers do those studies and collect data is important. Having that data out there will help inform better policies.”


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Devon Ziminski, Master in Social Policy candidate – is from Hillsborough, New Jersey, and attended The College of New Jersey. Her policy areas of interest include education, gun violence, and consumer behavior/business practices. Devon has been published in the Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research and most recently presented her research on distracted driving at the 2015 Marketing and Public Policy Conference.


This story has been published in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2). In the run up to the 2016 Presidential Election, the school launched “SP2 Penn Top 10, a comprehensive multimedia initiative in which renowned SP2 faculty members analyze and address the most pressing social justice and policy issues.”

Part of the project is the creation of stories produced by “SP2 Penn Top 10 Fellows,” graduate students from the School who are trained in solution-based journalism using the Journalism for Social Change curriculum.  

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1 Comment

  1. Gun control is not crime control.

    Pass mandatory criminal control!

    Step one.

    If charged with having/using a firearm unlawfully….

    No reduced bail, Subject to an automatic dangerousness hearing, No plea bargains, No reduced sentences, No early release from prison, and minimum state sentencing laws for crimes committed with a firearm.

    No need for step two.

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