What is gun violence, and who does it affect?

Data and Metrics Health Policy

Gun violence has become an alarming public health crisis in the United States. Its toll goes well beyond the thousands of lives lost each year. It devastates families and communities. It threatens our sense of safety and security. In a series on gun violence as a public health issue, we explain the different types of violence and who is affected.

Types of gun violence:

The CDC categorizes gun violence into five types (including death and injury): 1) intentionally self-inflicted, 2) unintentional or accidental (cleaning or playing), 3) interpersonal or intentional (homicide and assault), 4) legal intervention (law enforcement in the line of duty), and 5) undetermined intent.

Sometimes, these categories overlap. For example, we see overlap where legal intervention may be later categorized as interpersonal violence (homicide or assault)** and where interpersonal violence is not directly interpersonal, yet is related to political ideas, racism, prejudice, or incidental (“being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”)

Fast Facts

According to the 2020 CDC and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health report on gun violence:

In one year (2020), 45,222 people lost their lives to gun violence. Over 18,000 of the deaths were homicides. 24,000 of the deaths were due to suicide by firearm.

Gun violence touches all of our lives, but some groups are more likely to be direct victims than others. These include:

⚈ Children, teens, and young adults under age 25. Death by a firearm was the leading cause of death for young people in 2020. To put this in perspective, young people under 30 were almost 10 times more likely to die by firearm than from COVID-19 in 2020.

⚈ Elders. The rate of death by suicide with a firearm is highest among adults 75 years of age.

⚈ Men. 86% of all firearm deaths are suffered by men.

The toll of gun violence:

For people who survive, there are long-term individual consequences, including:

⚈ problems with memory and thinking

⚈ physical disability, including paralysis

⚈ chronic pain

⚈ chronic mental health problems such as PTSD

⚈ lost time from work and social activities

Effects on communities:

Gun violence can happen at any time in any place. Shooting incidents occur in homes, schools, houses of worship, workplaces, shopping areas on the street, at community events, etc.

They can affect the sense of safety and security for entire neighborhoods, communities, and the nation as a whole. For some, these events are impacting everyday decisions.

Gun violence is considered a public health issue because of the scale of the impact and the effects on the health of communities.

The good news is that amazing epidemiologists are studying this from a scientific and health perspective so that we can take action. Those Nerdy Girls are here to support you and our communities to have the information we need to be informed and stay safe 🤓.

Though we are not experts in gun violence, we will work to make the science around the research available and understandable.

💫 Tune in this Friday, May 26, for a LIVE discussion with Dr. Chana Davis and Dr. Sara Gorman on Gun Violence in America: Facts, Myths, and Solutions. They will be discussing the gun violence crisis in America. Tune in to get the facts, bust myths, and find solutions with public health and misinformation expert, Dr. Sara Gorman.

Please submit questions to the question box here.


Those Nerdy Girls

**The CDC classification “legal intervention” undercounts police-involved gun deaths. To address this gap, media sources like the Washington Post’s Fatal Force database have tracked police-involved shootings in recent years, reporting that 1,021 people were shot and killed by police in 2020. (From the report, A Year in Review: 2020 Gun Deaths in the U.S., https://publichealth.jhu.edu/)



Fast Facts: Firearm Violence Prevention

JHSPH interprets 2020 data

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