Scientists find why gun death risk is higher in small towns

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Uncovering the Reality: Small Towns vs. Big Cities

For a long time, people have thought that big cities are the main places where gun violence happens. But new research is challenging this idea.

Experts from Columbia University, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the University of California, Davis have found that small towns, not major cities, have a higher risk of gun deaths.

They looked at 20 years of death records across the U.S. and published their findings in the journal JAMA Surgery.

What they discovered might surprise you: small towns are increasingly facing a higher burden of gun deaths than big cities.

Gun Suicides Over Gun Homicides

A big part of this story is suicide. Most of us think of gun violence as being about one person killing another, but the fact is, more people use a gun to take their own lives than to harm someone else. This is especially true in rural or less populated areas.

From 2001 to 2010, the smallest counties had a 25% higher overall rate of gun deaths than the biggest cities. Even more startling, these rural places had a 54% higher rate of gun suicides.

On the flip side, these areas had a 50% lower rate of gun homicides compared to big cities.

Changing Trends Over Time

It wasn’t always this way. Studies from the 1990s showed that the risk of dying from a gun was about the same whether you lived in a city or a small town.

But things have changed. Nowadays, rural areas are seeing a growing problem, while cities are becoming safer in terms of gun deaths.

The researchers pointed out that this shift should make us rethink how we deal with gun safety. “Despite the focus on gun violence in cities, our study shows that the problem affects communities of all sizes,” they said.

Many laws have been eased thinking the problem is mainly in cities, but this new information tells us we need to consider smaller communities too.

What Does It Mean for Policy and Public Awareness?

Understanding that small towns are facing a growing problem with gun deaths, especially suicides, can help lawmakers and community leaders make better decisions.

It’s not just about making laws that affect cities; we also need to focus on what’s happening in less populated areas.

This research also serves as a wake-up call for all of us to pay attention to the signs of mental health issues, particularly in rural communities.

The growing rate of gun suicides tells us that something is wrong and needs to be addressed urgently.

In short, gun violence and gun deaths are not just “big city problems.” They are American problems, affecting communities big and small. And it’s high time we started acting like it.

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The research findings can be found in JAMA Surgery.

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