By Stephen Renberg, HealthDay Reporter>
Monday, January 10, 2022 – The temporary decline in the number of Americans killing themselves and others with guns has ended, newly released US government data shows.
“Firearm homicide and suicide are an urgent public health concern in the United States,” said Scott Keegler, lead author of a new study on gun violence in America by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
She noted that guns were involved in 75% of all homicides and 91% of homicides of young people between 2018 and 2019 – a rate essentially unchanged from 2016.
These new numbers represent a significant and alarming rise from a decade earlier, said Keegler, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Injury Prevention.
“In 2015 to 2016 and 2018 to 2019, gun homicide rates in large metro areas were similar to those seen a decade ago in 2006 to 2007, reversing a sustained downward trend,” he said. “During this period, rates of firearm suicide among people aged 10 and over continued to increase in major urban areas.”
Gun homicides are an ongoing problem in cities, especially among black men, but they are also prevalent in less densely populated areas, according to the report.
Previous research has linked economic hardship and a lack of trust in institutions to rates of firearm homicide.
The researchers said the high rates of homicides involving the use of firearms among minority youth may be due to the stresses of living in poor communities, systemic racism or multigenerational poverty resulting from limited educational and economic opportunities.
Firearm homicide rates for all ages varied widely across regions of the United States in 2018-2019, the study said, ranging from 1.1 per 100,000 in the Providence, Ray-Warwick, Massachusetts area, to 18.9 in the Memphis, Tennessee, area.
The rate for all metro areas combined was 4.8 per 100,000, and the nationwide rate was 4.5 — similar to levels in 2015-2016, according to the study.
Meanwhile, gun suicide rates have risen in 30 of the country’s 50 largest metro areas, according to the report.
In 2018-2019, firearm suicide rates ranged from 1.4 per 100,000 in the New York, Newark, and Jersey City metro area to 12.9 in Oklahoma City.
The rates for large metro areas and nationwide were 6.2 and 8.1 per 100,000 respectively, both higher than 2015-2016.
suicide among white males
The study indicated that rates of suicide by firearms were particularly high among white men. Contributing factors include family and relationship issues, work and money problems, mental illness, substance abuse, and stigma around getting help for mental problems, the researchers said. They also said the drug overdose epidemic may contribute to the risk among young people.
One of the biggest contributors to homicide and suicide trends? Kiegler and his team said the guns are ready.
They wrote Jan. 7 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) that “reducing access to lethal means before or during an acute suicide crisis by safely storing firearms or temporarily removing them from the home can help reduce suicide risk, Especially among young people. Weekly morbidity and mortality report.
The good news, Keegler said, is that homicides and suicides with firearms can be prevented with a comprehensive approach.
“This approach builds on prevention strategies and methods with the best available evidence and seeks to prevent risks before they start,” Keegler said.
Researchers have identified some strategies that have proven successful, including:
- Adopting policies and practices to enhance economic support for individuals and families, for example, by providing generous unemployment benefits or housing support to prevent evictions.
- Ensure that insurance covers mental health care at the same rate as physical health care.
- Teach children and adolescents early coping and problem-solving skills, so that they learn how to deal with conflict and deal with negative influences.
- Build positive, nurturing relationships with friends, family and community, and connect young people with caring adults so that they have someone to turn to in times of struggle.
- Develop programs to enhance neighborhoods, for example by improving abandoned buildings and damaged areas, creating and maintaining green spaces, and investing in basic services and commercial activities.
- Promote safe storage of guns to prevent suicide and murder.
“We haven’t really made a significant impact on gun violence in the country,” said Dr. George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, and people, especially young people, remain at risk.
Laws can regulate firearms
Benjamin said firearm violence prevention begins with a background check to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t own them, such as those with mental illness.
He said weapons also need to be kept out of children’s reach. Benjamin added that the pistol stored apart from its bullets also constitutes a deterrent to hasty suicide.
He also supports so-called “red flag laws” that allow guns to be temporarily withdrawn from people who may harm themselves or others.
Benjamin would also like to see guns become safer. He said your smartphone is now safer than a gun. He said that when your phone is locked, no one can use it without your passcode, your fingerprint or your face to unlock it.
“This won’t go away until our nation decides we want to end this,” Benjamin said. “And we can do that while respecting the current interpretation of the Second Amendment.”
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Posted Jan 2022