An increase in the number of gun-related suicides pushed the gun death rate in the United States in 2017 to its highest level in almost twenty years, the Guardian reports.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 39,773 people in the U.S. were killed by a gun in 2017, or 12 per 100,000 people — the highest rate since 1996. A recent study by the Jama Network found that gun death rates are significantly lower in other industrial nations, including Japan (0.2 deaths per 100,000 people), the United Kingdom (0.3 per 100,000), Germany (0.9), and Canada (2.1). According to the Jama report, the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Guatemala were responsible for more than half of the approximately 251,000 firearm-related deaths around the world in 2016.
Despite the attention given to mass shootings in the U.S., 60 percent of all gun deaths in 2017 were suicides. According to the CDC, nearly 24,000 people — equal to 6.9 deaths per 100,000 people — killed themselves with a gun in 2017, up from 6.1 in 2010 and 5.9 in 2000. What's more, the rate of gun-related suicides was highest in three states that also have the highest percentage of gun ownership — Montana (19.4 gun-related suicides per 100,000 people), Wyoming (16.6 per 100,000), and Alaska (16.0 per 100,000). Homicides committed with a firearm claimed the lives of 14,542 people in 2017, or 4.6 deaths per 100,000 people — a rate that held steady on a year-over-year basis.
"People often think with suicides involving firearms that there's nothing we can do to prevent this," Dakota Jablon, a policy analyst with the Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence, told the Guardian. "But looking at these numbers, it's clear that simply having a lot of guns around increases the danger."