A few months back, I wrote about trends in motor vehicle accidents, and then about trends in hate crime statistics. Now with all the talk about firearm-related deaths I figured I'd look into those a bit.
So, the first obvious thing from the chart below is that there was a large increase in the firearm death rate from 1994 or so down to 1999, and it's been pretty level since then. There were also ups & downs before that, too.
The next thing I see is that changes in the total firearm-related death rate are closely linked to homicides, although the big drop in the late 1990's was due to a drop both in homicides and intentionally self-inflicted injuries, but that trends in homicides and intentionally self-inflicted injuries often follow each other, but not always (especially 2006-2010).
If 1994 sounds familiar, that could be because that's the year the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act took effect, requiring background checks for the sale of handguns. I don't know what happened in 1999-2000 to stop that encouraging trend line.
This next chart is a lot busier than it should be, but a couple things stand out clearly when you break the time trends down by age.
First, there are really different trends over time by age. There's an obvious surge in 20-24 year olds dying from 1985 to 1999, but an even more dramatic surge among 15-19 year olds, who start out (and end up) with some of the lowest firearm-related deaths, but really cranked up during the late 80's -early 90's.
All age groups saw a decline during that critical 1994-1999 period.
But when you look a little closer, something else becomes clear: the firearm-related death rates for 35-64 year olds pretty much decline throughout the whole time frame, while 75-84 year olds build up through the 80's, then decline through the 90's, and the 85+ year old group inclined through the 80's, but didn't really come down as much since then.
You may notice a sudden jump in firearm-related deaths among children in 1979, that's actually a fluke due to a change in the coding system (ICD-8 to ICD-9), but the subsequent rise, and dramatic fall in children's firearm-related mortality from that point on is real.
One of the frustrating things about working with US mortality data is that it's always 3-4 years out of date. I don't know why that's the case, because before there were computers, the delays in getting the death data out were measured in months. But that's a topic for another day...