A growing percentage of gunshot wound victims in the United States are dying before they reach the hospital, a study by researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle has found.
The findings suggest that the growing availability of more lethal weapons in the United States, such as guns of higher caliber and with larger magazines, is leading to more people dying before they can get medical care, said the article's lead author, Dr. Lauren Agoubi, a surgical resident who conducted her research as part of her two-year fellowship at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.
At the Harborview emergency room, we're seeing people with more wounds and with wounds from higher caliber weapons, just devastating injuries. There's only so much you can do for these patients."
Dr. Lauren Agoubi, surgical resident
In the study published April 5 in the journal JAMA Surgery, Agoubi and colleagues analyzed statistics on firearm deaths that were not self-inflicted from 1999 to 2021. The data was gathered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gunshot victims who died before they reached an emergency room, hospital or other medical facility were considered to have died at the scene of the shooting.
Of the nearly 307,000 people who died in these circumstances, the percentage who died on the scene rose from 51.8% in 1999 to 56.6% in 2021. The percentage dying in emergency departments also rose, from 25.9% to 29.9%. Over the same period, the percentage of gunshot victims dying in the hospital fell from 13.8% to 11.3%.
"The gun violence crisis in the U.S. is not just due to mass shootings, it's due to day-to-day shootings," which are responsible for far more deaths and injuries, Agoubi noted.
"Our findings suggest that restricting access to firearms — or at least to the more lethal types of firearms — will be critical to saving lives," she said.
Agoubi, L. L., et al. (2023). Patterns in Location of Death From Firearm Injury in the US. JAMA Surgery. doi.org/10.1001/jamasurg.2022.8380.