Firearm Homicides

Deaths due to firearm homicide per 100,000 population

  • New Jersey State Health Assessment
  • Multiple Cause of Death Data, National Vital Statistics System, National Center for Health Statistic
Calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2020, 5 year estimate.
Dashboard-City Average

Why do we measure firearm homicides?

Firearm-related death is a leading cause of premature deaths in the U.S (1), and homicides make up 40% of these deaths. Since 2012, the incidence of firearm-related homicides has steadily increased, accompanied by a surge in gun sales (2, 3). In 2020 alone, approximately 22 million guns were purchased, and firearm homicides and non-suicide-related shootings killed at least 19,300 people, a 25% increase from 2019 (4). Younger males (aged 15-34), and Black Americans are at the highest risk of firearm related homicides. This may be due to neighborhood and structural factors, such as exposure to drug and firearm trafficking, gang activities, and historical disinvestment that has left neighborhoods lacking in social support and opportunity (1, 5). The rate of firearm-related homicides is 25.2 times higher in the US than in other high-income countries (5). Stricter gun laws and laws requiring universal background checks for firearm purchase have been associated with reduced firearm-related mortality (6).

How do we measure firearm homicides?

This metric uses data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) to measure deaths from assault by handgun discharge (ICD code: X93), assault by rifle, shotgun, and larger firearm discharge (ICD code: X94), and assault by other and unspecified firearm and gun discharge (ICD code: X95). Development of this metric was facilitated by supplemental funding from Everytown for Gun Safety.

Strengths and Limitations

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

• NVSS includes comprehensive death records from all states and federal jurisdictions. It provides the most complete firearm-related homicide count, compared to other available data sources (7, 8).

• This measure provides the most geographically granular publicly available data for firearm-related homicides in cities.

• This metric is available broken down by race and ethnicity, which can help highlight disparities and encourage interventions.

• Firearm-related injuries and disabilities are not included in this metric. This metric does not represent the total public health burden of firearm violence.

• Data are suppressed in some cities because of low event counts.

• Race and ethnicity data are often collected using discrete options that may not account for all or multiple identities, leading to undercounting of those who are more likely to select “other."


The firearm-related homicide rate is calculated by the following formula:

Firearm Formula

For more information on the calculation, please refer to the City Health Dashboard Technical Document.

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from the Multiple Cause of Death Data from the National Vital Statistics System of the National Center for Health Statistics. Multi-year data are available for this metric. For more information, please refer to Using Multi-Year Data: Tips and Cautions.


  1. Fowler KA, Dahlberg LL, Haileyesus T, Annest JL. Firearm injuries in the United States. Preventive Medicine. 2015;79:5-14.

  2. Gramlich J. What the data says about gun deaths in the U.S.: Pew Research Center; 2019.

  3. Collins KY-B, David. About 2 Million Guns Were Sold in the U.S. as Virus Fears Spread. New York Times. 2020.

  4. Everytown. Gun Violence and COVID-19 in 2020. Everytown Research & Policy; 2021.

  5. Grinshteyn E, Hemenway D. Violent Death Rates: The US Compared with Other High-income OECD Countries, 2010. The American Journal of Medicine. 2016;129(3):266-73.

  6. Kaufman EJ, Morrison CN, Branas CC, Wiebe DJ. State Firearm Laws and Interstate Firearm Deaths From Homicide and Suicide in the United States: A Cross-sectional Analysis of Data by County. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2018;178(5):692-700.

  7. Office of Justice Programs BoJS. The Nation’s Two Measures of Homicide. U.S. Department of Justice; 2014.

  8. Sondik EJ. Data on Gun Violence: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? : Springer International Publishing; 2021. p. 15-24.

Last updated: November 1, 2021