The United States has seen over 1 million firearm fatalities over the past three decades with the death rates reaching a 28-year high in 2021.
US Police Identify Walmart Shooter
There were 1,110,421 deaths related to firearms in the country from 1990 to 2021, nearly 86 percent of them among males, according to a recent study released in the JAMA Network Open, an open-access medical journal published by the American Medical Association.
The death rates per 100,000 people per year, after reaching a low of 10.1 in 2004, began to climb back up, eventually increasing by 45.5 percent to 14.7 in 2021.
"Firearm fatalities accelerated dramatically during the COVID pandemic... Multiple potential factors have likely contributed to this including severe economic distress, an erupting mental health crisis, and a significant uptick in the sale of firearms," said Eric Fleegler, one of the authors and associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
The study has also underlined increasing disparities in firearm fatality rates among racial and ethnic groups. Homicides were most common among Black non-Hispanic men aged 20 to 40 years, and suicides were most common among White non-Hispanic men aged 70 years or older.
Disparities in maximum fatality rates per 100,000 people per year among females were highest by homicide, with Black non-Hispanic females dying in 2021 at a maximum rate of 18.2 fatalities, Hispanic females at 3.7 fatalities, and White non-Hispanic females at 2.2 fatalities.
The increase among women -- most dramatically, in Black women -- is playing a tragic and under-recognized role in a tally that skews overwhelmingly male. "Women can get lost in the discussion because so many of the fatalities are men," said Fleegler.
GUN CONTROL STALEMATE
The study came on the heels of a pair of high-profile mass shootings in the United States, which rekindled debate on the country's gun policies. Last week, a night-shift manager at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, opened fire inside the supermarket, killing six and injuring four others before taking his own life. Days earlier, a gunman wielded an AR-15-style rifle, killing five while injuring 19 others at a nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"I'm sick and tired of these shootings... We should have much stricter gun laws," U.S. President Joe Biden said last week. However, it is unlikely for a ban on assault weapons to be approved by the U.S. Congress in the near future.
Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives next term, making it almost impossible for gun control legislation to go through the chamber.
In the Senate, though Democrats held onto their majority, they don't have enough votes to overcome the filibuster to pass new gun regulations.
After the new Congress convenes early next year, Republicans are likely to go toe-to-toe with Democrats on gun issues. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said he will seek to "strengthen the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms."
RISING GUN OWNERSHIP
About a third of American adults say they personally own a gun, according to the Pew Research Center. The U.S. has more guns than any other country, with estimated over 400 million guns between police, the military, and civilians. Over 393 million -- over 98 percent -- of those guns are in civilian hands, the equivalent of 120 firearms per 100 citizens.
The number continues to grow each year. Firearms sales surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, with an estimated 7.5 million new firearm owners, and 5.4 million homes previously without firearms now contain firearms, the study in the JAMA Network Open said, adding that the increase was associated with the exposure of more than 16 million people to firearms in the home for the first time.
Last week, the National Shooting Sports Foundation said federal authorities had completed 711,372 background checks for the purchase of a firearm at retail during the week leading up to and including "Black Friday." The day after Thanksgiving in the United States, Black Friday is traditionally the best gun sales day of a year, and last Friday was bested by only two other recent Black Fridays in 2017 and 2019.
Advocates of gun control in the country have pointed a finger at firearm manufacturers and a federal law that protects them from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products.
"While families across the country sat with empty seats at their dinner tables and mourned their loved ones stolen by gun violence, the gun industry -- an industry with unique legal protections that shield it from accountability -- made record sales," said Everytown for Gun Safety, an American NGO which advocates for gun control and against gun violence.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, in the first 11 months of this year, the United States has suffered at least 618 mass shootings, defined by the nonprofit as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter. Last year, the country saw a staggering number of 690 mass shootings, up from 610 in 2020 and 417 in 2019.