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More Die From Gun Injuries; Weapon Types Are Major Factor

A record number of people are dying from firearm injuries in the U.S., and new research suggests that shootings are becoming more lethal. Most victims of fatal firearm injuries die at the scene of the shooting, before they can be treated in a health care setting. About 57% of firearm fatalities in 2021 occurred at the scene of the shooting, up 9% since 1999, according to a research letter published Wednesday in the JAMA Surgery journal. Researchers used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and excluded suicides and other self-inflicted firearm injuries, CNN reports. Nearly 49,000 people died from firearm injuries in the U.S. in 2021, an unprecedented surge of 23% over two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A shift in the type of firearms used is a key factor making shootings more lethal, experts say. “It’s leaning more and more towards military-grade, higher velocity, higher lethality type of weapons,” said Dr. Eric Fleegler, an emergency physician at Boston Children’s Hospital. “That includes larger magazine capacity so they can shoot more bullets, the ability to fire them at faster rates, and quite frankly, just bigger, faster bullets which cause more damage to a human body.” Federal data show handguns are the most common murder weapon, used in more than half of all homicides that involve firearms. Rifles, such as the AR-15, are becoming more frequently used. Nearly 4% of firearm homicides in 2021 involved a rifle, killing 447 people. That’s more than twice as many deaths and nearly twice as common compared to firearm homicides in 2015. Experts say the new research adds to evidence that an important step to reducing gun violence will involve addressing the types of guns that are available. “It reiterates that maybe there should be a look at solutions which limit the magazine capacity and access to high-caliber weapons, as well,” said Ari Davis of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Gun Violence Solutions.


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