The purpose of this report is to provide information on firearm-related deaths among Arizona residents. The data for 1996 are placed in a temporal context by comparison with the data for the preceding 10 years.
This section presents some illustrative findings contained in the figures and tables of the report. It is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of the tabulated data. When possible, United States data are given in order to provide a comparative context for the Arizona firearm-related mortality statistics.
Firearms rank second, surpassed only by motor vehicles, as the leading cause of injury mortality both nationwide and in Arizona. Firearm-related injuries and motor vehicle collisions accounted for 6 out of every ten (59.3 percent) injury deaths in Arizona in 1996
The number of firearm-related fatalities decreased in Arizona by 12.5 percent, from 1,010 in 1995 to 884 in 1996 (Table 2).
Relative to people nationally, Arizonans were more likely to die from firearm injuries in each year from 1986 to 1996 (Figure 1, Table 1). Each year in the nation, about 14 firearm-related fatalities occur for every 100,000 individuals. In Arizona, annual rates of death by firearms ranged from 17 to 24 for the years 1986 to 1996.
The Arizona age-adjusted firearm- related mortality rate decreased by 17.6 percent from 24.4 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 persons in 1995 to 20.1/100,000 in 1996 (Table 1).
The 1996 Arizona firearm-related mortality rate was 55 percent higher than the national rate, and 44 percent higher than the Arizona 2000 health objective of 14 weapon-related deaths per 100,000 population.
While fourth digit ICD codes are available to identify the type of firearm that was used, the vast majority of weapon types are coded on death certificates as "other and unspecified" (Table 3).
All but a small fraction of firearm- related fatalities are intentionally inflicted. Among 884 firearm-related deaths in 1996, 12 (or 1.4 percent) were classified as unintentionally inflicted firearm injuries, 527 (59.6 percent) as suicides, 320 (36.2 percent) as homicides, 16 (1.8 percent) were fatal injuries inflicted by the police or other law-enforcement agents, and 9 (1 percent) were un-determined whether the injury was accidentally or purposely inflicted (Figure 2).
The firearm-related death rate among Blacks (29.8/100,000) was the highest among ethnic groups in Arizona in 1996. It exceeded the corresponding rates for non-Hispanic white, American Indian and Hispanic residents of Arizona by 67, 51 and 15 percent respectively (Figure 3).
Among non-Hispanic whites, firearm-related fatalities predominantly were a result of suicide (Figure 4) In contrast, the majority of deaths from firearms were incurred in acts of homicide among Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians.
Firearm-related fatalities among ethnic minorities occurred at younger ages compared to firearm-related deaths among non-Hispanic whites (Table 6). At least 88 percent of 1996 firearm-related deaths for each ethnic minority group were less than 45 years old, while only 57 percent of firearm-related deaths among white non-Hispanics were this young.
The 1996 mortality rate from firearms among males 33.7/100,000) was 5.6 times greater than the rate of 6.0/100,000 among females (Figure 5, Table 8). Particularly high gender ratios in firearm mortality were evident in 1996 for Hispanics (male rate of 46.9 was 13 times the rate of 3.6 for females, Figure 9).
Annual firearm-related homicide death rates among Arizona residents were at least 39 percent lower than the firearm-related suicide death rates from 1986 to 1996 (Figure 6).
In any given year since 1991, annual firearm-related death rates among teenagers 15-19 years of age were the highest among the age groups (Table 1).
Between 1995 and 1996, the total firearm death rate among teenagers 15-19 years old decreased by 19 percent from 45.3 to 36.7 fatalities per 100,000 persons in this age group in 1996 (Table 1). The firearm homicide rate decreased by 33 percent from 27.7/100,000 in 1995 to 18.5/100,000 in 1996 (Figure 7, Table 15). At the same time, the 1996 rate for firearm suicide (14.6/100,000) slightly increased from a rate of 14.4/100,000 in 1995.
Since 1986, the annual firearm death rates for Arizona teenagers have been higher than their death rates associated with natural causes of death (such as heart disease or cancer) combined (Figure 8). One of every three deaths among teenagers 15-19 years in 1996 was by firearm (113 out of 353), compared to one out of every six in 1986 (50 out of 283).
Among males, the 1996 firearm mortality curve by age was bimodal (Figure 10, Table 8), reaching the first peak at ages 15-19 years (63.8/ 100,000), tapering off to 29.5/100,000 at ages 45-64, and rising to a second peak among the elderly 65 years and older (37.7/100,000). The female firearm death rate was highest for those 20-44 years old (8.7/100,000).
In 1995 (the latest year for which the firearm death rates are available by State), the age-adjusted firearm mortality rates ranged from 4.6/100,000 in Massachusetts to 48.5/100,000 in the District of Columbia. Arizona ranked fourth highest in the nation (Figure 11).
In Arizona, the age-adjusted rate of death by firearms in the 1996 period varied from 7.1/100,000 among Graham County residents to a rate of 37.3 firearm deaths per 100,000 residents of La Paz County (Figure 12).
Some homicides and some suicides could be prevented if there was no firearm available. This observation is in keeping with one of the general principles of injury prevention: It is easier to remove the physical agent of potential injury than it is to modify risk-taking behavior*.
Jeffrey J. Boyd and Eve K. Moscicki,Firearms and Youth Suicide. American Journal of Public Health. October 1986. Vol. 76, No.10: 240-242.