Car accidents have been the leading cause of non-medical deaths in the US for decades, but new data shows that the number of firearm fatalities will soon exceed traffic deaths for the first time.
While motor-vehicle deaths have been declining over the years, gun fatalities have steadily increased, according to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Motor-vehicle deaths reached a low point in 2010 and have decreased by 22 percent from 2005 to 2010, while shooting deaths have been gradually rising since the late 1990’s.
Based on the data, shooting deaths will likely rise to 33,000 in 2015 and surpass the number of traffic fatalities, which are predicted to be around 32,000 that year, Bloomberg News reports. The news comes at a time when Americans are engaging in a nationwide debate about gun control after 20-year-old Adam Lanza massacred 26 people with an assault rifle at an Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. If current trends continue, gun-related deaths will only continue to increase.
“We’ve made policy decisions that have had the impact of making the widest array of firearms available to the widest array of people under the widest array of conditions,” Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California – Davis, told Bloomberg.
Although gun fatalities have increased, traffic fatalities have decreased at a far steeper rate, due in part to advances in safety technology. Traffic fatalities in 2011 were the lowest since 1949, according to the National Highway Safety Administration.
And even though gun deaths increased, the rise has little to do with violent crimes and murders, which have been reduced. The increase in firearm deaths is mostly attributed to homicides, suicides, and accidents – especially since many households now have multiple guns. CDC data shows that about 85 Americans are shot dead daily, 53 of which are suicides and one of which is younger than 14. More than 200 people go to a US emergency room each day to get treated for gunshot wounds.
Even though premeditated murders have declined, ‘mass murders’ may be on the rise. USA TODAY reported that 774 people were murdered by a ‘mass killer’ between 2006 and 2010. This year has also seen an increase in the number of mass shootings, with 12 being shot to death in a Colorado movie theater, 6 dying at the hands of a shooter at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and 26 being massacred at the Elementary School in Connecticut.
It may soon be more likely to die from a gunshot wound than in a car accident.
The Newtown shooting has prompted the Obama administration to take action on gun control policies. Choosing Vice President Joe Biden to lead an initiative to tackle gun violence on a policy level, the president is addressing the nation’s concerns about the ease of acquiring assault weapons, as well as examining other factors that might cause someone to massacre so many people.
“Every day since, more Americans have died from gun violence. We know such violence has terrible consequences for our society,” the president said in a speech Wednesday. “I urge members of Congress to hold votes on these measures next year in a timely manner.”