Importance: Little is known about nonfatal firearm injuries in the United States, and national estimates based on emergency department samples may not be accurate.
Objective: To describe the incidence and distribution of nonfatal firearm injuries and estimate case fatality ratios (CFRs) for firearm injuries by external cause of injury code within California overall and by race/ethnicity, including an assessment of trends over time and geographic variation within the state.
Design, setting, and participants: This serial cross-sectional study used complete statewide data for firearm-related mortality, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations among California residents from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2015, to analyze incidence, distribution, and CFRs of firearm injury. Data were analyzed from 2018 to 2019.
Exposures: All individuals in California with a firearm injury based on International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision codes were included.
Main outcomes and measures: Counts and rates of nonfatal firearm injuries overall and stratified by external cause, sex, and race/ethnicity; total and clinical CFRs. Clinical CFR was calculated based on individuals treated in emergency departments or hospitals.
Results: Over the study period, there were 81 085 firearm-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations among individuals with a mean (SD) age of 27.5 (11.9) years, 72 567 (89.6%) of whom were men. Nonfatal firearm injuries in California decreased by 38.1% between 2005 and 2015, driven by a 46.4% decrease in assaultive injuries. Self-inflicted injuries and unintentional injuries remained relatively stable. The overall CFR for firearm injuries increased from 27.6% in 2005 to 32.2% in 2015 for a relative increase of 20.7%, while the clinical CFR remained stable between 7.0% and 9.0%.
Conclusions and relevance: These findings suggest that although the number of firearm injuries has decreased in California, the lethality of these injuries has not. Similar studies from other states could provide more information about these trends nationwide.