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June 13, 1986

Death and Injury by Firearms: Who Cares?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurological Surgery (Ms Jagger) and the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy (Dr Dietz), University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

JAMA. 1986;255(22):3143-3144. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370220105036

FIREARMS are a major source of death and injury in the United States. The most recent available figures from the National Center for Health Statistics show that in 1982, firearms killed 33,000 people in the United States (1,756 unintentional, 16,575 suicides, 13,841 homicides, 276 legal action, and 540 intent undetermined). Firearms are second only to motor vehicles as the most important cause of injury deaths. There are currently 15 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 US population per year compared with about 20 per 100,000 US population for motor vehicles. Firearms are responsible for two of three homicides and four of seven suicides.1 Despite the magnitude of this problem, we know remarkably little about the ways in which firearms impair the health of the public. Most of what we do know has been pieced together from mortality data because of the accessibility and completeness of vital records. Mortality alone, however, does