On Thursday, a shooter opened fire on the campus of a community college in Roseberg, Ore., killing multiple people and fueling a long-simmering debate about gun laws and the tragedy of gun death in America.
Gun deaths, by homicide and suicide, are pretty common in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 33,636 Americans died by firearm in 2013 -- about one person every 15 minutes. And they disproportionately happen to young people. In fact, more 15-25-year-olds die due to firearms in the U.S. than are killed while in motor vehicles.
The chart below shows some common causes of fatal injuries for young people between the ages of 15 and 25 from 1999 to 2013. The top blue line shows the rate of deaths by motor vehicle per 100,000 15-24-year-olds -- a figure that includes people driving cars, riding in cars, riding motorcycles or bikes, pedestrians who are struck by cars, and various other situations. Taken all together, this is a bigger cause of death for young people than firearms, shown by the red line, are.
However, if you just look at motor vehicle occupants -- what most people think of when they think of kids dying in a car crash -- you can see that firearms are actually the bigger cause of death. This data, which comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just looks at fatal deaths by injury, so it doesn’t include diseases like cancer.
As the chart below shows, younger people are more likely to be shot by someone else, while most older gun deaths are suicides.
David Hemenway, a professor of public health at Harvard University, estimates that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are 49 times more likely to be shot and killed in the United States than in other rich nations, citing forthcoming research.
“In other developed countries, children don’t have to go through metal detectors to go to school,” says Hemenway.