New research conducted by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the University of California, Davis reveals that despite common belief, firearm deaths in the United States are more likely to occur in small towns rather than major cities. The study, which appears in the journal JAMA Surgery, analyzed two decades of U.S. mortality data and found that the divide in total intentional firearm deaths between urban and rural counties is increasing, with rural counties bearing more of the burden.
The authors of the study note that while high rates of gun homicides in urban centers have been the sole focus of many policymakers and have been used as a justification to loosen gun laws, gun violence is an issue in counties of all sizes. The study found that between 2001 and 2010, the two most rural counties had higher total firearm death rates than the most urban counties, with the most rural counties having a 25 percent higher overall firearm death rate than the most urban counties.
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Gun suicides are more common than gun homicides across the country, and they are largely responsible for an increase in gun deaths over the past few decades. The risk of gun suicides in the most rural counties exceeds the risk of gun homicides in the most urban counties. The most rural counties had a 54 percent higher gun suicide death rate and a 50 percent lower gun homicide death rate compared with the most urban counties.
The researchers based their findings on an analysis of multiple cause-of-death data files from the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Vital Statistics System from the beginning of 2001 to the end of 2020. It is important to note that the United States has experienced several mass shootings over the past few years, which have contributed to the ongoing debate over gun control in the country.
IMAGE CREDIT: Somchai Kongkamsri.