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Studies: Guns Take Toll on US Public Health


The United States has the highest rate of gun homicides among developed countries.

The United States has the highest rate of gun homicides among developed countries.

Guns play a role in roughly 33,000 U.S. deaths every year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – a number that’s substantially higher than in any other developed country.

America’s gun homicide rate is almost four times higher than Switzerland’s – the nearest contender – and roughly 16 times that of Germany, the Vox news site reported, using data from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Firearms also are cited in many thousands of injuries each year, chronicled by the Gun Violence Archives. Congress yanked the CDC's funding explicitly for gun research in the mid-1990s.

Almost two-thirds of U.S. gun deaths are suicides. The president’s executive actions, announced in January, would add $500 million in spending on mental health treatment – and on reporting related firearms prohibitions to background check systems.

Gun rights backers have criticized mandatory reporting regulations that would require people with mental illness to give up possession of their firearms.

Others share that concern. The director of a psychiatric facility in Connecticut, which requires such reporting, told PBS “NewsHour” he feared it could deter people from seeking treatment.

Mental illness often is blamed in mass shootings – incidents with four or more victims, excluding the perpetrator. In cases in which the shooter dies, it can be difficult to prove without a previous diagnosis. But most people with mental illness pose no threat to others and are far more likely to be victims than aggressors, said Beth McGinty, a health policy assistant professor on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Gun Policy Research.

She told VOA that epidemiological evidence shows “3 to 5 percent of interpersonal gun violence is directly related to mental illness.”

The Harvard Injury Control Research Center, which reviewed numerous studies, is more blunt about risk: "Where there are more guns, there is more homicide," its website says, citing "a broad array of evidence."

States with higher rates of gun ownership have elevated rates of gun-related homicide, Harvard University researchers have found.

States with higher rates of gun ownership have elevated rates of gun-related homicide, Harvard University researchers have found.

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