Nearly 40,000 people were killed by guns in the U.S. in 2017, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total brings the U.S. gun death rate to its highest point in more than two decades, The Trace reports. The CDC’s WONDER public health database shows that 39,773 people died from firearms last year. That is a rate of 12.0 per 100,000 people, higher than the rate of death from car accidents of 11.5 per 100,000 people, once the leading cause of fatal injury. The last time the gun death rate reached similar heights was in 1996, according to data from the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), another CDC database.
Last year’s increase in the gun death rate was driven by suicides. Sixty percent of gun deaths last year were self-inflicted. While the rate of gun homicides has fluctuated over the last decade, the rate of gun suicides has steadily increased. The surge in firearm suicide was not spread evenly among states, says the Educational Fund To Stop Gun Violence. Places with higher rates of gun ownership saw the biggest increases in gun suicides. In Kansas, the rate of gun suicides ballooned 65 percent from 2008 to 2017. Vermont, West Virginia, and Missouri all saw their firearm suicide rates increase by nearly 60 percent. Eight states had decreases in their gun suicide rates from 2008 to 2017. The overwhelming majority of Americans who ended their lives with guns last year were white (91 percent) and male (87 percent).