How many gun-related deaths in the U.S. last year?

And while we’re at it, how many Fentanyl-related deaths?

With the understandable recent concern about gun-related deaths, I did some data digging.

For the record:

I consider each and every homicide to be a tragedy.

I have never owned a gun or shot a gun … and I have no plans to do either.

But, I do support Constitutional rights that are explicit in the Constitution.

Gotta follow “the science” and the data, right?

Pew — an unbiased source if there is one — has crunched the numbers, compiled mostly by the “scientists” at the CDC.


The answer to the headline question:

In 2021 — according to the CDC — there were 45,222 firearms-related deaths in the U.S.


The 45,222 is a much lower number than I expected … and drilling down further…


Suicides – Homicides

According to Pew & the CDC, more than half of the 45,222 gun-related deaths were suicides (24,292) …  homicides totaled 19,384 – about 50 each day.

There were 611 law enforcement-related gun deaths in 2021 (they’re lumped into the 3% “other” category).


Mass murders.

The Gun Violence Archive, an online database of gun violence incidents in the U.S., defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people are shot, even if no one was killed (excluding the shooters).

Using this broad definition, 513 people died in these incidents in 2020.

Pew’s conclusion: The fatalities in mass shooting incidents in the U.S. account for a very small fraction  of all gun murders that occur nationwide each year.



According to FBI data analyzed by Pew. Handguns were the instrument of death in the vast majority of gun-related deaths.

“Rifles” – the category that includes guns sometimes referred to as “assault weapons” – were involved in 3% of firearm murders.

Note: Though Pew doesn’t draw a correlation, it’s probably not coincidental that the “rifle” numbers and the “mass murder” numbers are essentially the same.


School Killings

According to James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University who has been tracking these events for decades and helps keep the AP/USA Today/Northeastern Mass Killing database:

School massacres like the one in Uvalde are exceptionally rare events. They actually occurred more often in the 1990s than recently.Source

Prof. Fox notes that school shootings are undeniable tragedies, but that “the annual odds that an American child will die in a mass shooting at school are nearly 10 million to 1, about the odds of being killed by lightning or of dying in an earthquake.” Source


Drug Overdose Deaths

For perspective, let’s draw a comparison…

According to WebMD – channeling the CDC:

U.S. deaths attributed to drug overdoses topped 100,000 last year for the first time.

Specifically, in 2021, drug overdose deaths increased 15% to 107,622 … more than double the number of gun-related deaths … and quadruple the number of gun-related homicides.

Fentanyl accounted for 71,238 deaths … almost 3 out of 4 drug overdose deaths

In 2022. with Fentanyl flowing freely across the southern border, it’s widely expected that Fentanyl-related deaths will soar.


Something seems out of whack, doesn’t it?

4 Responses to “How many gun-related deaths in the U.S. last year?”

  1. Nancy Campbell Says:

    Interesting, I’ve wondered.

  2. Deepak Gupta Says:

    Prof Homa,

    The biggest problem with this defense and all other such comparisons and arguments used is:

    Gun Valence is causing death of innocents. People / Kids who never knew what gun is become victims i.e.: my two girls aged 8 and 5 have not a single toy gun, they don’t even know what it looks like and I get terrified each time I hear these school shootings fearing for them.

    People indulge in drugs at will and if someone wants that risky pleasure which can result death it is by choice.

    The two can’t be put together in the same category.. period

    • Mr. Mark Dennis Fritz Says:

      Deepak Gupta,
      I am concerned that you take offense at a presentation of facts, relevant to recent National crises, as being a defence of anything. This article is, most literally, a presentation of data. Any conclusions drawn are entirely the purview of the reader, as no conclusions are, even, suggested in this article.

      As for your statement, concerning drugs being an indulgence partaken “at will”, I must argue that you demonstrate grievous ignorance of the real nature of drug abuse, addiction, and the violence used to actually enslave unwitting victims into a life of worthless pursuit that benefits no one but illegal drug cartels. An addiction to a drug is, biologically, as easy to kick as eating food, drinking water, and breathing is. An actual addiction, the chemical kind not the psychological, creates a system of painful dependence that cannot be simply ignored; only those with proper drug treatment, safe living spaces, and supportive socialization can, even, start the journey with a hope of successfully conquering the addiction; even when the addiction is no longer holding back a person from progress, that addiction must be considered in every decision for the rest of that person’s life, “as once an addict, always an addict” is far truer than anyone blessed with not being an addict can begin to comprehend.

      I know from personal experience the pain of seeing someone close choose to pursue an addiction, because their surroundings offered no escape. Whether it be alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, vapes, tobacco, gambling, or what have you, addiction is powerful and can destroy lives. While, yes, many addicts willingly submit themselves to partaking in their addiction, I beg you to consider not eating for three days and analyse how you eat you eat your first meal, afterwards.

      No, if any conclusions need to be refuted, it is the conclusion that the gun violence and drug addiction crises are unrelated. Killing somebody with a bullet is no different that killing somebody with an illegal substance, whether that substance kills over minutes, days, years, or a lifetime. If there is a difference, I would argue that the crueller crime is the death via drug addiction, as drug addiction leads not only to death but causes the mind to be enslaved to forces so strong that even the most well reasoned, benevolent characters are broken under its whip.

      Thank you for your thoughts, Deepak Gupta. I, strongly, disagree.

  3. Mr Jones Says:

    Excellent article!
    Waaaay too many Americand being murdered with guns and waaay too many dying from illegal drug overdose. You don’t mention the vast number dying from legal, prescribed drugs (pharmaceuticals).

    My guess is that for every death there are 10 or 20 or 50 more that are injured or infirmed. Our so-called culture is definitely centered around drugs of some species.

    The number of drug dependent Americans must be staggering.

    Oh, I recommend confiscating the guns from the violent criminals and leaving us law abiding citizens, who just want to protect ourselves and our families, alone.

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