Gun-related deaths plummet

Web Site Report
From November 19, 1999

ATLANTA (AP) - Gun deaths in the United States dropped 21% between 1993 and 1997 to the lowest level in more than 30 years, and firearm-related injuries fell 41 percent, the government said Thursday.

Experts cited such reasons as tougher gun control laws, a booming economy, better police work and gun safety courses.

Gun deaths and gun injuries for the years 1993 through 1997 as reported by emergency rooms. Statistics include all gunshot wounds, including intentional, accidental and self-inflicted. The number in parentheses is the number of incidents per 100,000 people:
1993 39,595 (15.4)
1994 38,505 (14.8)
1995 35,957 (13.7)
1996 34,040 (12.8)
1997 32,436 (12.1)
1993 104,390 (40.5)
1994 89,744 (34.5)
1995 84,322 (32.1)
1996 69,649 (26.3)
1997 64,207 (24.0)
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at all gunshot wounds reported at emergency rooms, whether they were intentional, accidental or self-inflicted.

The number of fatalities dropped from 39,595 - 15.4 gun deaths per 100,000 people - in 1993, to 32,436- 12.1 per 100,000 - in 1997.

The rate ''is the lowest it's been since the mid-'60s,'' said J. Lee Annest, a CDC statistician. ''This progress is really encouraging and really says that joint prevention efforts of public health officials, legislators and law enforcement should continue.''

The drop was not unexpected: Homicide rates in the 1990s have fallen to levels not seen since the 1960s, and about two-thirds of all homicides are committed with guns. But the latest figures also include suicides and accidental deaths.

Moreover, nonfatal shootings fell from 104,390 to 64,207 in the same period, or from 40.5 per 100,000 to 24.0.

Bill Manown, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said the numbers prove that more gun laws aren't needed; the laws on the books need to be enforced.

''It is a fact that this substantial drop in gun violence directly correlated to a big increase in gun enforcement by police,'' said Lawrence W. Sherman, a University of Pennsylvania professor who has studied gun policy. ''Police were not treating guns in a preventive sense prior to 1993 and now they are.''

Some experts also credit a strong economy that has helped reduce overall crime and suicide attempts. Margaret A. Zahn, a North Carolina State University criminology professor, said prosperity has also allowed governments to spend more on services that prevent gun violence, such as domestic-violence shelters and youth recreation programs.

The CDC also listed such possible factors as an aging population, increased gun safety measures and the waning of the crack trade.

Gun control advocates said they are encouraged, but pointed out that even so, an average of 265 people a day were shot in 1997.

''People shouldn't be satisfied,'' said Nancy Hwa, spokeswoman for Handgun Control and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. ''Everybody is still at risk, and the presence of guns should still be a major concern.''