This year, the world took notice of one gun statistic in particular: the grim designation of “deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history,” a mantle that passed to the Las Vegas massacre in October. But for all the coverage that the shooting’s death toll received, other numbers reveal more about guns in America today. In 2017, we learned that the country’s firearm death rate has climbed to a level not seen in decades. New research deepened our knowledge of guns’ effects on crime, medicine, and law. And an audit revealed that the National Rifle Association’s record outlay on the 2016 campaign was more than $100 million bigger than its previous high.
Read on for 11 statistics that helped to shape our understanding of gun violence in America during the past year.
Gun deaths rose above 100 per day.
The national firearm death rate climbed to 12.0 per 100,000 people in 2016, according to a preliminary estimate from the Centers for Disease Control — a level not seen since the mid-1990s. That amounts to more than 38,000 deaths. The center’s head of mortality statistics, Bob Anderson, told the New York Times, “the fact that we are seeing increases in the firearm-related deaths after a long period where it has been stable is concerning.”
21 states have recorded increases in gun suicides.
Firearm suicides rarely make the headlines, but they claim more lives than any other type of gun violence. A study released earlier this year found that although the national rate of gun suicide fell between 1991 and 2015, those decreases were not evenly distributed — 21 states actually saw an increase in suicides over that time period. Alaska and North Dakota fared worst: their gun-suicide rates grew by 86 and 77 percent, respectively.
Every week, 136 children and teenagers are shot.
A CDC-authored analysis of childhood firearm injuries, published in the journal Pediatrics, offers a grim tally of the toll of gun violence on children. The majority of underage shooting victims are teens, but the study also found that more than 900 children aged 12 and younger are shot each year. Twenty-two percent of those shootings are fatal. And racial disparities that exist among adults are also present among children: black children die from firearm homicides at a rate 10 times higher than their white counterparts.
“These are preventable injuries that have a major public health impact on early death and disability among children,” the lead author Katherine Fowler told The Trace.
More than 135,000 students in the United States have lived through school shootings since Columbine.
This year, the Washington Post calculated that since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, more than 135,000 children and teens at 164 primary and secondary schools have been exposed to gun violence at school. The Post’s reporting reveals the hidden trauma that haunts these survivors, whose stories typically receive far less attention than those of the perpetrators and the dead.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, 2017 saw at least 77 incidents of gun violence at American primary and secondary schools. The tally includes any incident in which a gun was discharged.
Hospital costs for firearm injuries total $622 million per year.
A new study offers one of the best estimates yet of the staggering financial toll that gun injuries impose on our country: $622 million per year in hospital bills. A third of all firearm hospitalizations are covered by Medicare and Medicaid, at a taxpayer cost of $242 million per year — more than the amounts paid out by private insurance or self-paying patients. The study also found that the average bill for an individual hospitalization from a firearm injury is over $20,000 — more than double the cost of a typical hospital stay.
“It’s important to recognize that this is a public cost,” the lead author Corinne Peek-Asa told The Trace. “Being admitted for a firearm injury is very expensive, and we see so much of that cost is from uninsured or Medicaid sources.”
Eight states passed laws to protect victims of domestic violence from armed abusers.
Federal law bans domestic violence offenders from possessing firearms, but enforcement falls largely to states. This year, eight states passed measures aimed at keeping guns out of abusers’ hands. Among them: Louisiana broadened the definition of abuser to include “dating partners,” North Dakota enabled law enforcement to arrest domestic violence offenders who refuse to give up their guns, and Washington became the first state in the country to notify victims of domestic violence when their abusers try to purchase firearms.
A significant proportion of gun violence is domestic violence. In an editorial published this month, the New York Times reported that two-thirds of women killed with guns were murdered by an intimate partner.
A handgun homicide is nine times more likely to be found justified when the killer is white and the victim is a black man.
In an analysis of homicide reports spanning more than 30 years of FBI data, the Marshall Project uncovered stark racial disparities among the killings that are deemed justifiable. Overall, one in 50 murders is ruled justified — but when the killer is white and the victim is a black man, the figure climbs to one in six. Handgun killings with a white shooter and a black male victim exhibit an even more dramatic bias: one in four is found justified. Research has found that Stand Your Ground measures intensify this racial disparity, and those laws are seeing a resurgence in Republican-dominated states.
Three million Americans carry loaded handguns every day.
A survey of gun owners offers the latest estimate of how many Americans are carrying firearms: three million every day, and nine million at least once a month. The vast majority cite self-defense as their primary reason for carrying.
Another report, drawing on the same survey data, found that 43 percent of gun owners who own a handgun for protection have received no formal firearms training.
The NRA spent an unprecedented $419 million during the 2016 campaign season.
An audit of the National Rifle Association’s 2016 finances revealed that its support for Donald Trump and Republican congressional candidates translated into a record outlay for the organization. While that total includes the NRA’s entire operating expenses, political spending likely accounted for the bulk of the increase.
The NRA’s spending didn’t slow down after Trump took office. In the first quarter, the group spent $2.3 million on lobbying — more than double what it’s spent in any previous quarter.
Right-to-carry laws are associated with a 10.6 percent increase in a state’s handgun homicide rate.
“Shall-issue” laws — which require law enforcement to issue concealed-carry permits to all applicants who meet the state’s basic criteria— are linked to increased homicides, according to a study released this year. Compared to “may-issue” states, where officials have broad discretion in choosing whether to award permits, “shall-issue” states have 6.5 percent higher homicide rates on average. The gap rises to 10.6 percent when specifically considering handgun homicides.
The concealed-carry reciprocity bill that passed the House earlier this month would require states to recognize permits awarded out of state, weakening “may-issue” states’ ability to refuse permits to those they deem unfit to carry.
1.8 million guns have been reported stolen over the past decade.
The number of firearms stolen from homes, cars, gun dealers, and other locations was higher in 2016 than in any previous year on record, according to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. Over the past decade, the tally of guns reported stolen approaches two million, but because many gun thefts are never reported to police, the true number is likely much higher.
The Trace’s yearlong investigation into firearm theft, conducted in partnership with NBC, identified more than 23,000 stolen guns that were later recovered by police. They were used to commit murders, assaults, robberies, and other crimes.