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New RAND Database Provides Critical Information on Nonfatal Firearm Injuries

A first-ever state-by-state analysis opens the door to new research on gun policy.

Along with the database, RAND also released a new, interactive digital map to allow people to explore the nonfatal firearm injury data. View it here.

How many Americans are hurt by guns each year? The answer has been largely unknown — until now. 

We know that 39,740 people in the United States were killed by firearms in 2018 — the second-leading cause of injury death. We know much less about the number of people who continue to live with scars and wounds after being shot during an assault, an accident, or suicide attempt. 

RAND’s Gun Policy In America initiative, which is supported by Arnold Ventures, is working to document this information, and for the first time is publishing a state-by-state estimate of nonfatal firearm injuries. The Database of Hospitalizations for Firearm Injury, which provides estimates of state-level hospitalizations for firearm injury from 2000 through 2016 for all 50 U.S. states, is free to the public and will serve as an important resource for researchers, advocates, and policymakers.

This is a critical step forward as today comprehensive data on firearm injuries are not being collected, and the data that are available have limitations that restrict their usefulness to the field,” said Asheley Van Ness, director of criminal justice at Arnold Ventures.

This data will help answer fundamental questions about gun violence, such as trends in nonfatal gun shootings and changes in the lethality of firearms, and is also important for understanding the full effectiveness of strategies and policies aimed at reducing gun violence. Looking at gun deaths alone fails to capture the extent of gun violence in the United States, especially because of the vast differences in fatality rates from different types of firearm injuries. For example, only 5 percent of accidental firearm injuries result in a fatality. However, the case-fatality rate is 19 percent for assaults, and 85 percent for intentional self-harm. 

Amount of accidental firearm injuries that result in a fatality
Case-fatality rate for assaults
Case-fatality rate for intentional self-harm

Through the work of RAND’s Gun Policy in America initiative, researchers can evaluate the impact of state firearm policies and the estimates can also be used to calculate the total cost of firearm injury at the national or state level,” Van Ness said.

The Database of Hospitalizations for Firearm Injury also found a large variance across states. For example, between 2000 and 2016, Louisiana has the highest rate of annual firearm hospitalizations, at 2.42 per 10,000 people. On the other end of the spectrum, Hawaii had the lowest rate, at .19 per 10,000 people. 

RAND also released a new, interactive digital map to allow people to explore the nonfatal firearm injury data. 

The Gun Policy In America initiative has also recently published new and updated essays incorporating the latest research on several other important topics:

RAND’s Gun Policy in America initiative continues to be an important resource to the field by working to establish a shared set of facts that will improve public discussions and support the development of fair and effective gun policies,” Van Ness said. 

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