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Firearm-Related Fatality Rates - West Virginia and United States 1993-1998: A ComparisonClick here for PDF version of full report.
The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a report on fatal and nonfatal firearm-related injuries in the United States from 1993 through 19981. This brief provides a comparison of national firearm-related fatality rates with West Virginia firearm-related fatality rates during that time period. (Comparable state data on nonfatal firearm-related injuries were not available for the current study.) A firearm injury was defined as "a gunshot wound or penetrating injury from a weapon that uses a powder charge to fire a projectile," such weapons including handguns, rifles, and shotguns but excluding air-powered BB and pellet guns.
Firearm-related fatalities declined steadily in both the state and the nation from 1993 through 1998 (Figure 1). The United States experienced a 25.2% decrease in mortality rates between 1993 and 1998, West Virginia a 27.6% decrease. Nationally, this decline was seen for both genders, by race and intent, and across all age groups. The state showed the same trends, with the exception of certain groups where the number of deaths in any single year was too small for valid rate calculation.
Overall firearm-related mortality rates in West Virginia exceeded national rates every year from 1993 through 1998; this was true for both males and females. By age group, national firearm-related death rates were consistently higher among persons aged 20-24; state rates were more often higher among persons aged 25-34. West Virginia's firearm-related suicide rates were higher than corresponding U.S. rates throughout the time period, while the state's firearm-related assault rates were lower than the national rates during each of the six years.
Aggregating 1993-98 data allowed a more detailed comparison of firearm-related
deaths by intent, gender, age, and race. As shown in Figure 2, West Virginia
and the United States had similar percentages of unintentional firearm
deaths; proportionally, however, more of the state's deaths were due to
suicide than in the nation as a whole.
Table 2 displays 1993-98 firearm death rates by gender, race, and intent. Total rates among whites were higher in the state than in the nation for both males and females but lower statewide for black residents. Little difference between the state and the nation was noted for unintentional deaths, with state numbers too small among white women and all black residents to allow a valid comparison.
West Virginia's rate of suicide firearm deaths from 1993-98 was 10.8 deaths per 100,000 population, compared to a U.S. rate of 6.9. The state rate among white males was 42.3% higher than that of white males nationally, 20.2 compared to 14.2. White females in the state were also more likely than their national counterparts to die as the result of a firearm-related suicide (2.4 suicides per 100,000 females vs. 2.1).
While the overall rates for fatal firearm-related assaults were lower
in the state than in the nation, rates among white West Virginians were
actually higher than comparable national rates. White males in West Virginia
had a rate of 5.1 deaths per 100,000 male population from 1993-98, while
white males in the U.S. as a whole had a rate of 3.2. White females were
also more likely to die from a firearm-related assault in West Virginia,
with a rate of 2.1 versus 1.1 nationally. The rate among black residents,
on the other hand, was lower than the comparable national rate, with an
overall rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 black population compared to a
U. S. rate of 24.0. The state rate among black males was 34.4, compared
to 44.4 for the nation.
Table 3 provides 1993-98 state and national firearm-related death rates by age group and intent. In both the state and the nation, the overall firearm-related death rates for males were approximately six times higher than those for females. Both sexes in West Virginia, however, had higher rates of overall firearm-related mortality in all age groups over 24 than in the U.S. as a whole. While the highest rates of firearm-related suicide by age were found among persons aged 65 and older both nationally and statewide, West Virginia residents had higher rates than their national counterparts in all age groups. National rates for firearm-related assault deaths were higher than state rates through age 44, with WV rates exceeding U.S. rates among ages 45 and older. Figures 3 and 4 present firearm-related suicide and assault mortality rates among males. Taken together, these graphs illustrate the marked differences in intent behind firearm deaths in the state and the nation, differences important in understanding and addressing the problem of firearm mortality.
1 CDC. Surveillance for fatal and nonfatal firearm-related injuries -- United States, 1993-1998. MMWR 2001;50(SS-2) Return to text
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