STATCAST – Week of August 5, 2019

50 Years of NCHS Firearm Mortality Data: 1968-2017


In the wake of the tragic events of the past week, NCHS data on firearm-related deaths have become much in demand. NCHS does not track data on mass shootings, as the Center’s mortality data comes directly from the individual death certificates, which doesn’t include information related to a crime committed other than the cause of death. In addition, 2017 is the most recent year that national data are available on firearm deaths. What that data shows, however, is that the 39,773 firearm-related deaths in 2017 is the highest number recorded in the United States since 1968, and the death rate from firearms, which is exactly 12 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 population, is the highest recorded rate since 1996, when the rate was 12.6.

Back in 1993, there were 39,595 firearm-related deaths in the U.S., which is the second-highest number recorded during this 50 year period, but the death rate from firearms in 1993 was significantly higher than the 2017 rate. The rate in 1993 was 15 deaths per 100,000.

From 1968 through 1993, the NUMBER of firearm-related deaths did not approach the high numbers in 1993 or more recently in 2017; however, the death RATE from firearms was consistently higher from 1968 through 1997 than the rate was for 2017. This is because the U.S. population has grown fairly dramatically in the past half-century. As a result, firearm deaths as a portion of the population was actually higher several decades ago compared to more recent years. In fact, 1997 was the first year during this half century of data, that the death rate from firearms dropped below the 2017 rate of 12.0.