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Firearm Homicides

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Why do we measure firearm homicides?

Firearm-related death is a leading cause of premature death in the U.S.,(1) and homicides make up 40% of these fatalities. Since 2012, the incidence of firearm-related homicides has steadily increased, accompanying a surge in gun sales.(2,3) Younger males (aged 15-34), and Black residents are at the highest risk of firearm-related homicide. This likely reflects historical disinvestment, particularly in Black communities, that increases exposure to drug and firearm trafficking, neighborhood disrepair, and low levels of social support and opportunity.(1,4) The rate of firearm-related homicides is over 25 times higher in the U.S. than in other high-income countries.(4)

How do we measure firearm homicides?

This metric uses data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to measure deaths from assault by handgun discharge (ICD code X93), assault by rifle, shotgun, and larger firearm discharge (ICD code X94), and assault by other and unspecified firearm and gun discharge (ICD code X95). 

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

NVSS includes comprehensive death records from all states and federal jurisdictions. It provides the most complete firearm-related homicide count, compared to other available data sources.(7,8)

Firearm-related injuries and disabilities are not included in this metric. This metric does not represent the total public health burden of firearm violence.

Calculation

The firearm-related homicide rate is calculated by the following formula:

firearm homicides formula

This metric was calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. For more information on the calculation, please refer to the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document.

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are calculated by the Dashboard using data from the Multiple Cause of Death Data from the National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics. 

Years of Collection

For total population, calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2020, 1 year estimate

For all specific demogroups, including racial/ethnic subgroups and gender subgroups, calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2020, 3 year estimate

References

  1. Fowler KA, Dahlberg LL, Haileyesus T, Annest JL. Firearm injuries in the United States. Preventive Medicine. 2015/10/01/ 2015;79:5-14. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.06.002

  2. Gramlich J. What the data says about gun deaths in the U.S. 2019. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/08/16/what-the-data-says-about-gun-deaths-in-the-u-s/

  3. Collins K, Yaffe-Bellany D. About 2 Million Guns Were Sold in the U.S. as Virus Fears Spread. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/01/business/coronavirus-gun-sales.html

  4. Everytown. Gun Violence and COVID-19 in 2020. 2021. https://everytownresearch.org/report/gun-violence-and-covid-19-in-2020-a-year-of-colliding-crises/

  5. Kaufman EJ, Morrison CN, Branas CC, Wiebe DJ. State Firearm Laws and Interstate Firearm Deaths From Homicide and Suicide in the United States: A Cross-sectional Analysis of Data by County. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2018;178(5):692-700. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.0190

  6. Office of Justice Programs BoJS. The Nation’s Two Measures of Homicide. 2014. https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/ntmh.pdf

  7. Sondik EJ. Data on Gun Violence: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? Springer International Publishing; 2021:15-24.

Last updated: February 20, 2024