Objective: Our objective was to review historical trends in U.S. fatal firearm-related injuries for the years 1962-1993.
Methods: Using mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics and population estimates projected from census data, we calculated national age-adjusted mortality rates and examined trends over the 32-year period. Data were also examined by type of firearm-related death (unintentional, suicide, homicide, legal intervention, and undetermined intention), race, gender, and age group.
Results: During the 32-year period, the total number of firearm-related deaths increased by 137%, from 16,720 in 1962 to 39,595 in 1993. Suicide and homicide were responsible for most firearm fatalities. Rates for both firearm suicides and firearm homicides increased over time, while rates for unintentional, legal intervention, and undetermined intention decreased. The highest rates and widest variation in total firearm-related mortality occurred among African-American men (35.2/100,000 to 84.5/100,000). Persons 15-19, 20-24, and > or = 75 years of age experienced the largest changes in rates during recent years; total firearm mortality was higher for the younger age groups (15-19, 20-24) during 1990 through 1993 than any other time during the 32-year period.
Conclusions: These surveillance data help characterize trends over time and the magnitude of firearm-related mortality and identify groups at risk. However, further efforts to improve our understanding of firearm-related deaths and injuries, such as expansion of current surveillance to include information about morbidity associated with firearms and additional epidemiologic research to identify modifiable individual and societal risk factors, are necessary.