- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2018

An estimated 251,000 peopled died from gunshot wounds in 2016 worldwide, with the majority of deaths being homicides, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Globally, the number of deaths related to gun violence has decreased over the past quarter of a century by 1.6 percent, the researchers found, yet there was significant variation among the 195 countries analyzed, with firearm deaths either stagnating or significantly increasing.

At least six countries accounted for over half of all deaths by firearm — Brazil (43,200 deaths); the United States (37,200); Mexico (15,400); Columbia (13,300); Venezuela (12,800); and Guatemala (5,090).

An estimated 64 percent of gun deaths were homicides, with 27 percent suicides and 9 percent unintentional firearm deaths.

The study was led by Dr. Mohsen Naghavi of the Global Health Department at the University of Washington but included work by dozens of collaborators and institutions around the world.

The study relied on statistics from hospitals, census and survey data and police records to achieve their total number. The report highlights key similarities among 195 countries to better inform which social policies can help reduce gun violence.

The researchers looked at the variation in gun deaths between 1990 and 2016. Of the key findings, more people died from firearms over the 27-year study period than people died in conflict settings. In 2001, for example, 243,000 people globally died from firearm injuries compared to 38,000 deaths from conflict.

The one exception was 1994 with the Rwandan genocide, which brought the total number of global conflict deaths to 551,000 that year, compared to 232,000 firearm deaths.

Among the findings, the researchers identified that people age 20 to 24 are most commonly victims of firearm death, with males far more often the victims of gun violence than females, with 34,700 men killed by firearms and 3,580 women killed in 2016.

“Males are at higher risk of unintentional death while playing with firearms at a young age, of being involved in homicide involving firearms during adolescence and young adulthood, and of the greater use of firearms as a means in suicide throughout adulthood,” the authors wrote in the study. “Although men are most often the targets of firearm violence, they are also the most likely perpetrators, often in the context of domestic and relationship violence.”

The researchers recommend targeted interventions to address the use of firearms by and against men.

The authors also point out that despite homicides overall accounting for the majority of gun deaths, suicide death by firearm is the leading cause of gun injury in many countries.

“Efforts to reduce the number of firearms in homes and supporting secure storage of existing firearms can reduce unintentional death, particularly for children,” the authors wrote, “while limiting immediate access to a means of harm that generally does not allow opportunity for second thoughts.”

The authors pointed out that the high rate of firearm homicides in countries that span from Mexico to Brazil have been associated with drug cartels; the manufacture and sale of firearms; and illegal trade from the United States.

Social and cultural factors such as poverty, social inequality, rapid social change, alcohol and drug use, and a young population also play a role in the injuries and deaths caused by firearms.

“Violence at the intersection of these cultural factors, together with a high general availability of firearms, combine to produce high rates of mortality through the lethality inherent in the use of firearms,” the authors wrote.

Both suicide and homicide are defined as intentional behaviors, and thus it should be possible to develop strategies to reduce these forms of violence, the study said.

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