Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
CDC. 2021 ‘Underlying Cause of Death, Results.’ CDC WONDER Online Database. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / CDC, National Center for Health Statistics. 3 December
Underlying Cause of Death, Results
CDC WONDER Online Database, 1999-[to most recent year]
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide public access to the nation's most authoritative firearm injury statistics, as gathered from the health sector.
Firearm-related ICD-10 Codes1 include:
- Unintentional handgun discharge (W32)
- Unintentional rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge (W33)
- Unintentional discharge from other and unspecified firearms (W34)
- Intentional self-harm by handgun discharge (X72)
- Intentional self-harm by rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge (X73)
- Intentional self-harm by other and unspecified firearm discharge (X74)
- Assault by handgun discharge (X93)
- Assault by rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge (X94)
- Assault by other and unspecified firearm discharge (X95)
- Handgun discharge, undetermined intent (Y22)
- Rifle, shotgun and larger firearm discharge, undetermined intent (Y23)
- Other and unspecified firearm discharge, undetermined intent (Y24)
- Legal intervention involving firearm discharge (Y35.0)
Data is available for the United States, all 50 States and the District of Columbia. Results can be obtained by underlying cause of death, place of legal residence, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, sex, year, month and weekday of death.
Data are Suppressed when the data meet the criteria for confidentiality constraints.2
Death rates are flagged as Unreliable when the rate is calculated with a numerator of 20 or less.3
CAUTION - Editor's Note:
In its CDC WONDER online dataset, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the US Centers for Disease Control compiles national totals from death certificates filed with state health departments (the health sector). In parallel, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) compiles national totals of reported crimes of homicide, as submitted by thousands of law enforcement agencies (the justice sector).
Because many death certificates fail to specify the weapon used, NCHS data tables allocate a disproportionately high number of gun homicides to the 'Other and Unspecified' firearm category. And historically, due to inaccurate reporting within the justice sector, FBI homicide totals have tended to be 9% lower than the number of people who die by fatal assault, as counted by the health sector. (Rokaw, Mercy and Smith, 1990).4
In addition, NCHS/CDC datasets routinely 'suppress', or hide numbers and rates for reasons of confidentiality and unreliability (see NCHS 'Caveats' above). In some US states this has the effect of concealing gun homicide numbers and rates, year after year.
For these reasons, GunPolicy.org cites and compares NCHS/CDC data for the larger top-level categories (Total Gun Deaths, Gun Homicides), but displays and compares smaller, more accurate FBI tallies where these are disaggregated by weapon type (Handgun Homicides, Long Gun Homicides, and Gun Homicides (Other)).
While political and financial limitations on gun policy research in the United States persist, data credibility issues such as these are likely to remain.
Rokaw, William M., James A. Mercy and Jack C. Smith. 1990. Comparing Death Certificate Data with FBI Crime Reporting Statistics on US Homicides. Public Health Reports. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control, Vol.105 No.5, pp. 447-55.