Firearm Fatalities*

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Number of deaths due to firearms per 100,000 population. The 2024 Annual Data Release used data from 2017-2021 for this measure.

Gun violence is a leading contributor to premature death in the United States.1 Firearm fatalities are a critical public health issue as they are largely preventable. The vast majority of firearm fatalities are the result of suicides (54%) and homicides (43%).2 In the U.S., firearm-related suicide and homicide rates are 9.8 and 24.9 times higher, respectively, than other high-income countries.3 Studies have shown that suicidal acts that prove fatal are strongly associated with the availability of household guns, and state-level rates of gun ownership are significantly associated with firearm and overall homicide rates.4,5

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Data and methods

Data Source

National Center for Health Statistics - Mortality Files; Census Population Estimates Program

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) provides birth and death data drawn from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). These data are submitted to the NVSS by the vital registration systems operated in the jurisdictions legally responsible for registering vital events (i.e., births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and fetal deaths). 

The Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program (PEP) uses data on births, deaths, and migration to estimate population changes occurring since the most recent decennial census and produce a vintage, or annual time series of estimates. Each vintage includes the current data year and revised estimates for any earlier years since the last decennial census. Because each vintage of estimates includes all years since the most recent decennial census, the latest vintage supersedes all other estimates produced since the previous decennial census. See the Population Estimates Program methodology for statements and release notes for each vintage of population estimates.

Key Measure Methods

Firearm Fatalities is a rate

Firearm Fatalities is the number of deaths due to firearms in a county per 100,000 population. Rates measure the number of events (e.g., deaths, births) in a given time period divided by the average number of people at risk during that period. Rates help us compare health data across counties with different population sizes.

Deaths are counted in the county of residence for the person who died, rather than the county where the death occurred

It is important to note that deaths are counted in the county of residence of the deceased. So, even if a firearm death occurred across the state, the death is counted in the home county of the individual who died.

Some data are suppressed

A missing value is reported for counties with fewer than 10 firearm fatalities in the time frame.

The method for calculating Firearm Fatalities has changed

In the 2024 Annual Data Release, data from the Census Bureau's Population Estimates Program were used in the calculation of the denominator for this measure. In previous data releases, the denominator was calculated from the National Center for Health Statistics Bridged-Race Population Estimates; this data series was discontinued in 2023. The denominator change and updates to race categories in the 2024 Annual Data Release mean that comparisons with previous years should be made with caution. 

Caution should be used when comparing these estimates across years

Caution should be used when comparing across years due to methods changes described in the “The method for calculating Firearm Fatalities has changed” section.


The numerator is the number of deaths in a county over the 5-year period due to firearms as defined by ICD-10 codes W32-W34, X72-X74, X93-X95, Y22-Y24, and Y35.0.


The denominator is the aggregate annual population over the 5-year period.

Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress

This measure can be used to track progress with some caveats. It is important to note that the estimate provided in the Health Snapshots is a five-year average. However, in most counties, it is relatively simple to obtain single-year estimates from the resource below.

Firearm fatality data can also be further broken down by year and intent, which could help measure the impact of interventions specific to firearm fatality prevention.

Finding More Data

Disaggregation means breaking data down into smaller, meaningful subgroups. Disaggregated data are often broken down by characteristics of people or where they live. Disaggregated data can reveal inequalities that are otherwise hidden. These data can be disaggregated by:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race

Using CDC WONDER, mortality data can be grouped by age group, race, gender, and place of residence, including subcounty geographies. Rates can be exported as crude or age-adjusted. Small counties might need to combine multiple years of data to see rates, as CDC suppresses any rates when there are fewer than 10 deaths. 


1 Bangalore S, Messerli FH. Gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. The American Journal of Medicine. 2013;126(10):873-876.

2 Gramlich, J. What the data says about gun deaths in the U.S. The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew). 2023.

3 Grinshteyn E, Hemenway D. Violent death rates in the US compared to those of the other high-income countries, 2015. Preventive Medicine, 2019;123:20-26.

4 Miller M, Azrael D, Barber C. Suicide mortality in the United States: The importance of attending to method in understanding population-level disparities in the burden of suicide. Annual Review of Public Health. 2012;33:393-408.

5 Monuteaux MC, Lee LK, Hemenway D, Mannix R, Fleegler EW. Firearm ownership and violent crime in the U.S.: An ecologic study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2015;49(2):207-214.

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