pie chart showing percentage of deaths from firearms in the U.S. in 2017 by typeData from CDC WISQARS and Mother Jones Mass Shooting Database, 1982-2019

The human toll

There were 39,773 deaths from firearms in the U.S. in 2017. Sixty percent of deaths from firearms in the U.S. are suicides. In 2017, nearly 24,000 people in the U.S. died by firearm suicide.1 Firearms are the means in approximately half of suicides nationwide.

In 2017, 14,542 people in the U.S. died from firearm homicide, accounting for 36.3% of total deaths from firearms. Firearms were the means for almost 75% of homicides in 2017.

The other 3.7% of firearm deaths are uninentional, undetermined, from legal intervention, or from public mass shootings (0.3% of total firearm deaths).

There are approximately 115,000 non-fatal firearm injuries in the U.S. each year, including about 20,000 non-fatal unintentional firearm injuries in 2017.

The economic cost

The estimated annual cost of gun injury in 2012 exceeded $229 billion—about 1.4% of GDP.2

Prevalence of ownership

31% of all households in the U.S. have firearms, and 22% of American adults personally own one or more firearms.3

Compared with other countries

The U.S. has relatively low rates of assaultive violence but high firearm mortality rates in comparison with other industrialized nations.4

Risk and safety

Research has found that individuals with risk factors for firearm injury and death are less likely to safely store their firearms when compared to firearm owners without these risk factors.5,6

graph of rates of firearm homicide and suicide in the U.S. from 1980-2017Data from CDC WISQARS

Trends in firearm injury and death

Overall since 2006, firearm homicides in the U.S. have decreased, but the number of firearm suicides has increased by a similar amount.4 The rate of  firearm suicide in the U.S. increased from 2016 to 2017 while the rate of firearm homicide remained the same.1

In the last 12 years, firearm suicide rates have steadily increased from 5.7/100,000 population to 7.3/100,000 population in 2017.

Even when firearm homicide rates were at their highest in the mid-1990s (just above 7/100,000 population), they were not higher than those for firearm suicide.

Firearm homicide and suicide rates vary demographically and geographically.

Learn more about trends in firearm injury and death in the U.S.

The role of health care providers

There are no state or federal statutes that prohibit health care providers from asking about patients’ access to firearms when the information is relevant to the health of the patient or the health of someone else.7,8

Research has shown that patients are generally receptive to provider questions on firearm access and safety.9,10

  1. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2017.
  2. Follman M, Lurie J, Lee J, West J. The true cost of gun violence in America. 2015. (Accessed 10 December, 2017, at https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/true-cost-of-gun-violence-in-america/)
  3. Smith TW, Son J. General Social Survey final report: trends in gun ownership in the United States, 1972-2014. 2015.
  4. Wintemute GJ. The epidemiology of firearm violence in the twenty-first century United States. Annu Rev Public Health 2015;36:5-19.
  5. Nelson DE, Grant-Worley JA, Powell K, Mercy J, Holtzman D. Population estimates of household firearm storage practices and firearm carrying in Oregon. JAMA 1996;275:1744-8.
  6. Nordstrom DL, Zwerling C, Stromquist AM, Burmeister LF, Merchant JA. Rural population survey of behavioral and demographic risk factors for loaded firearms. Inj Prev 2001;7:112-6.
  7. Wintemute GJ, Betz ME, Ranney ML. Yes, you can: physicians, patients, and firearms. Ann Intern Med 2016;165:205-13.
  8. Kapp MB. Geriatric patients, firearms, and physicians. Ann Intern Med 2013;159:421-2.
  9. Betz ME, Flaten HK, Miller M. Older adult openness to physician questioning about firearms. J Am Geriatr Soc 2015;63:2214-5.
  10. Walters H, Kulkarni M, Forman J, Roeder K, Travis J, Valenstein M. Feasibility and acceptability of interventions to delay gun access in VA mental health settings. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2012;34:692-8.