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Firearm Injuries, Fatalities Dropping Drastically in U.S.

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One aspect of the report is very puzzling to the researchers, though: the drop in suicides. Annest tells WebMD, "We really don't know what's going on there. ... The thing you've got to realize about the suicide rate is it's been pretty flat for several decades -- there hasn't been much of a change at all in firearm suicides -- so all of a sudden in '93 they're starting to head down. ... That's what's impressive: all these years it's been quite stable and all of a sudden we're starting to see a decline in suicide overall."

Unintentional fatal firearm injuries continued to decline, as they have consistently done since 1950, which may be attributed to legislation, the proportion of people using guns for recreational purposes, and information and safety programs, says Annest.

Keeping the statistics in perspective, though, about 96,000 people sustained gunshot wounds in 1997, and about one-third of them were fatal. Although the report doesn't detail what kinds of guns caused the wounds, "these are not BB gun wounds," says Annest. Gun-related fatalities in 1997 in the U.S. were second only to motor vehicle related incidents in death due to injury, and on the same level as suicide, eighth overall.

But Annest says, "It's good that we're making progress, I think the prevention efforts that we have in place through public health, criminal justice, and education programs seem to be collectively having an impact, and we ought to continue them."

 

ã 1999 Healtheon/ WebMD. All rights reserved.

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