Culture Wars/Current Controversies

What the data says about gun deaths in the U.S.

More Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2020 than in any other year on record, according to recently published statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That included a record number of gun murders, as well as a near-record number of gun suicides. Despite the increase in such fatalities, the rate of gun deaths – a statistic that accounts for the nation’s growing population – remains below the levels of earlier years.

Here’s a closer look at gun deaths in the United States, based on a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the CDC, the FBI and other sources. You can also read key public opinion findings about U.S. gun violence and gun policy in our recent roundup.

How we did this
A pie chart showing that suicides accounted for more than half of U.S. gun deaths in 2020

In 2020, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., according to the CDC. That figure includes gun murders and gun suicides, along with three other, less common types of gun-related deaths tracked by the CDC: those that were unintentional, those that involved law enforcement and those whose circumstances could not be determined. The total excludes deaths in which gunshot injuries played a contributing, but not principal, role. (CDC fatality statistics are based on information contained in official death certificates, which identify a single cause of death.)

What share of U.S. gun deaths are murders and what share are suicides?

Though they tend to get less public attention than gun-related murders, suicides have long accounted for the majority of U.S. gun deaths. In 2020, 54% of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. were suicides (24,292), while 43% were murders (19,384), according to the CDC. The remaining gun deaths that year were unintentional (535), involved law enforcement (611) or had undetermined circumstances (400).

What share of all murders and suicides in the U.S. involve a gun?

Nearly eight-in-ten (79%) U.S. murders in 2020 – 19,384 out of 24,576 – involved a firearm. That marked the highest percentage since at least 1968, the earliest year for which the CDC has online records. A little over half (53%) of all suicides in 2020 – 24,292 out of 45,979 – involved a gun, a percentage that has generally remained stable in recent years.

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