Professor of Public Policy, Economics and Sociology, Duke University
- The fatality rate for firearm assault injuries remained stable from 2003 to 2012, contradicting other widely reported findings of a decline in the fatality rate for firearm assaults.
- The adjusted fatality rate for firearm assaults was actually 22% from 2003 to 2012 rather than the reported unadjusted decline from 25% in 2003 to 18% in 2012.
- This recent decline in the firearm homicide rate is a result of the decline in the number of assaults, not improvements to emergency gunshot medical care.
In the article, “Constant Lethality of Gunshot Injuries From Firearm Assault: United States, 2003–2012,” Cook and his coauthors add to the literature challenging the findings that suggest assault-related gunshot wounds have recently become less fatal, leading to a decline in firearm homicide rates. Cook and his coauthors examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on patients with gun-related injuries from 2003 to 2012 and, after adjusting for problems in how firearm assaults are classified in the data, they discover that the fatality rate for firearm assaults was actually 22% from 2003 to 2012, rather than the reported decline from 25% in 2003 to 18% in 2012. Their findings that fatality rates have remained constant illustrate that it is a reduction in the overall number of firearm assaults that has caused the decline in the gun homicide rate and not an increased efficiency in the emergency medical care for gunshot victims.