Public health research has shown that firearms violence is directly related to firearms availability and density. What separates America from other Western, industrialized nations is not our overall rate of violence, but our rates of lethal violence--which can be directly traced to gun availability. In 2009 alone, more than 31,000 Americans died by gunfire: 18,735 in firearm suicides, 11,493 in firearm homicides, 554 in unintentional shootings, and 232 in firearm deaths of unknown intent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than twice that number are treated in emergency rooms each year for nonfatal firearm injuries.
Most Americans are surprised to learn that most gun deaths are not homicides, but preventable suicides. Even in homicide, the most common scenario is an argument between two people who know one another.
Gun violence places a tremendous burden on America's health care system. Direct medical costs for gunshot wounds total more than six million dollars a day. Nonfatal gunshot wounds are the leading source of uninsured hospital stays in the United States, with an estimated half of such costs borne directly by the public. These numbers reveal that while most Americans view gun violence solely as a crime issue, it is, in fact, a broad-based public health issue of which crime is merely the most recognized aspect.