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Many more people are dying from gun suicides than gun-related homicides

(Reuters photo/Jim Young)

Gun suicides are becoming far more common than gun-related homicides, accounting for 64 percent of all gun deaths in 2012, according to new statistics. And the suicides have become especially common among older white men.

There were 32,288 deaths from firearm violence in the United States in 2012, a rate that's remained relatively stable over the past few years. But since 2006, gun suicides have increased from 57 percent of all firearm-related deaths, according to research published this month in the Annual Review of Public Health.

Gun deaths by suicide have outpaced homicide-related deaths in the United States over the past 35 years. But since 2006, the decrease in gun-related homicides have almost been matched by the increase of gun suicides, according to the study from Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis.

Suicide risk rises in adolescence, but it also increases sharply among white men in retirement age. By 85 and older, the gun suicide rate for white men was five times higher than the rate for black men and 3.2 times the rate for Hispanic men.

Though homicides have been decreasing, there's still a wide racial disparity in gun violence. Young black adult men, ages 20-29, are 20 times more likely than white men of the same age to be killed by a firearm. And the gun homicide rate is at least five times higher compared to Hispanic men ages 20-29.

About 516 people in 2012 were killed accidentally by guns, or about 1.6 percent of all gun deaths that year — though, these accidental deaths may be under reported.

Mass gun killings, which capture widespread media attention for a few days, account for just a small portion of gun-related deaths. The four worst events in the past 15 years resulted in a combined 84 homicides, according to the report —about the same number of people who have been killed by guns in the United States everyday between 2003 and 2012.

If the current pace continues, the number of young people who die from gun violence next year is projected to outnumber those who die in car accidents, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.

The new U.S. Surgeon General's nomination was held up by more than a year largely because the NRA opposed him for having the nerve to call guns a health care issue. But these new statistics underscore why you can't ignore firearm deaths as a threat to public health.