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Guns... or Not?

Gun Deaths Drop to Lowest Rate in Three Decades


By Bill Rankin and Gracie Bonds Staples
Cox News Service
Friday, April 13, 2001

Gun deaths in the United States declined more than 25 percent throughout the mid-1990s and fell to the lowest rate in more than 30 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

While the CDC can't say for certain why numbers are dropping, researchers cite stricter sentencing, laws that make it more difficult for criminals to get guns, low unemployment rates and less drug trafficking.

"The interesting thing is when we looked at the data in terms of intent of injury -- homicides, suicides, assaults -- and all of them are heading downward," said Lee Annest, director of the office of statistics and programming at the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. "The suicide rate is not declining quite as rapidly, but there is clear evidence that it is going down, which is really encouraging news."

The number of gun-related injuries, however, remains significant, Annest said. In 1998, for instance, 95,000 people in the United States sustained a gunshot wound, an average of about 260 a day. About one-third were fatal.

Dr. Kenneth Powell, chief of chronic disease and injury epidemiology for the state Division of Public Health, said firearm death rates in Georgia are consistently higher than in the United States as a whole.

But in the past six to seven years, the state's firearm mortality rate dropped about 25 percent, mirroring national trends, he said.

The state does not keep statistics on gun-related injuries.

The CDC reported 30,708 gun-related deaths in 1998, the last year statistics were available for the study. That year's rate of 11.4 gun-related deaths for every 100,000 people was down 26 percent from 15.4 deaths per 100,000 in 1993.

The 1998 rate was the lowest since 1966, when there were 11.1 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people.

The center based its study on death certificates and emergency room reports.

"Obviously, this is good news, although it's a mistake to get too excited about one study and one report like this," GBI Director Milton "Buddy" Nix said.

Among the study's findings:

Men were almost seven times more likely than women to be treated in a hospital emergency room for a gunshot wound.

Black men 20 to 24 years old had the highest average gun-related fatality rate, more than six times the rate of similarly aged white men and more than three times the rate of all similarly aged men and women.

Elderly men are about 15 times more likely than elderly women to use a gun to commit suicide.

Firearm deaths remain the second-leading cause of injury-related fatalities in the country, behind motor vehicle accidents.

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