You're More Likely to Die From Guns in a Small Town Than Big City

Cara Murez

Cara Murez

Published on April 26, 2023

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Key Takeaways

Forget the stereotypes: Gun deaths are more common in the most rural counties of the U.S. than in the most urban counties

Gun suicides played a large role in those findings, researchers found

Rural counties had a 25% higher overall firearm death rate than the most urban counties. Their gun suicide death rate was 54% higher

WEDNESDAY, April 26, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Gun deaths in the United States are more likely in small towns than big cities, and suicides are a big reason why.

Gun suicides are more common than gun homicides, according to a new study. Those suicides have played a large part in the increase in gun deaths over the past few decades.

“Our study has found that the divide in total intentional firearm deaths between urban and rural counties is increasing, with rural counties bearing more of the burden. In the 2000s, the two most rural county types had statistically more firearm deaths per capita than any other county type, and by the 2010s, the most urban counties-- cities -- were the safest in terms of intentional firearm death risk,” wrote the study’s authors, including Paul Reeping of the University of California, Davis. At the time of the study, he was with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“Despite the pervasive nature of gun violence, high rates of gun homicide in urban centers have been the sole focus of many policymakers and used as justification to loosen gun laws, when, in fact, gun violence is an issue in counties of all sizes,” the authors added in a Columbia news release.

The researchers analyzed U.S. death data from the National Center for Health Statistics from 2001 through 2020.

The two most rural counties had higher total firearm death rates than most urban counties between 2001 and 2010, the data revealed.

The most rural counties had a 25% higher overall firearm death rate than the most urban counties, the researchers learned. The rural counties also had a 54% higher gun suicide death rate and a 50% lower gun homicide death rate.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided funding for the study.

Study findings were published in JAMA Surgery.

More information

The Pew Research Center has more on U.S. gun deaths.

SOURCE: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, news release, April 26, 2023

What This Means for You

Policymakers tend to focus on urban gun violence, "when, in fact, gun violence is an issue in counties of all sizes," study authors say.

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