Study objective: To characterize trends in annual estimates of nonfatal firearm-related injuries treated in US hospital emergency departments and to compare trends in quarterly rates of such injuries with those of firearm-related fatalities in the US population.
Methods: Data on nonfatal firearm-related injuries were obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) by review of medical records for June 1, 1992, through May 31, 1995. Data on firearm-related fatalities were obtained from the National Vital Statistics System for January 1, 1985, through December 31, 1995. NEISS comprises 91 hospitals that represent a stratified probability sample of all hospitals in the United States and its territories that have at least six beds and provide 24-hour emergency service. The main outcome measures were numbers, percentages, and quarterly population rates for nonfatal and fatal firearm-related injuries.
Results: An estimated 288,538 nonfatal firearm-related injuries (95% confidence interval [CI], 169,776 to 407,300) were treated in EDs during the 3-year study period. The annual number of non-fatal firearm-related injuries increased from 99,025 for June 1992 through May 1993 (95% CI, 58,266 to 139,784) to 101,669 for June 1993 through May 1994 (95% CI, 59,822 to 143,516), then decreased to 87,844 for June 1994 through May 1995 (95% CI, 51,687 to 124,001). Before the third quarter of 1993, quarterly nonfatal and fatal firearm-related injury rates in the total US population and quarterly nonfatal firearm assaultive injury and firearm homicide rates for males aged 15 to 24 years were observed to be on the rise. Since then, these rates have significantly declined.
Conclusion: Analysis of national trends indicates that non-fatal and fatal firearm-related injuries are declining in the United States, although the rate of firearm-related deaths remains high, especially among males aged 15 to 24 years, in relation to other leading causes of injury death. An assessment of factors responsible for the decline in firearm-related injuries is needed to design further prevention efforts.