On September 28, 2023, the New Mexico Department of Health released its “Comprehensive Report on Gunshot Victims Presenting at Hospitals in New Mexico.” The report spans the time period from 1999 to 2023. The report was issued as a direct response to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s September 8 Executive Order 2023-0130, declaring a public health emergency due to gun violence.
Patrick Allen, Secretary for the Department of Health had this to say about the report:
“The findings of this report are clear: New Mexico faces an urgent firearm-related injury crisis. … The alarming surge in firearm-related injuries and deaths revealed in this report demands our immediate attention. We must work together as a community to implement effective interventions that will save lives and reduce the economic burden on our healthcare system.”
KEY FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS OF REPORT
The report provides a detailed analysis of firearm-related violent deaths and injuries in New Mexico. It encompasses data from various sources, including New Mexico’s surveillance systems, state behavioral risk factor surveys, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) data.
INCREASE IN FIREARM-RELATED DEATHS
- Over the past two decades, New Mexico’s firearm death rates rose from seventh highest nationwide in 1999 to third highest in 2021 with the age-adjusted firearm death rate increasing by 87% between 2010 and 2021.
- While suicide remains the predominant cause of firearm-related deaths, a notable surge of 70% in the homicide rate is driving the overall increase in firearm fatalities.
- Men of all age groups were found to be at highest risk for firearm-related injuries and deaths.
- Racial/ethnic inequities: Non-Hispanic American Indian, Non-Hispanic Blacks, and Hispanics, experienced substantial increases in firearm injury death rates between 2017 and 2021.
LACK OF SAFE STORAGE AS RISK FACTOR FOR FIREARM INJURY AND DEATH
- In 2022, 37% of New Mexican households have a firearm, 15% of New Mexican households have a loaded firearm, and 8% have a loaded and unlocked firearm.
- In 2022, households with a firearm and a child less than 18 years old, 38% have a loaded firearm and 15% have a loaded and unlocked firearm.
RISING ECONOMIC IMPACT OF FIREARM INJURY TO NEW MEXICO HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
- The annual estimated overall cost of firearms injuries and deaths in New Mexico is $6 billion or $2,818 per capita.
- Medicaid claims for firearm injuries in New Mexico increased by 85% from $6.5 million in 2018 to $12 million in 2022.
- Between January 2023 and September 2023, Medicaid expenditures totaling $5.6 million have been spent on firearm injuries in New Mexico.
THE PREVALENCE OF UNSAFE STORAGE OF FIREARMS IN NEW MEXICO
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey data provides additional information on unsafe storage of firearms, which is a key risk factor for firearm injury in households with children (age 18 or under) More specifically, several key findings from the BRFSS include:
- 37% of New Mexican households have a firearm, 15% of New Mexican households have a loaded firearm, and 8% have a loaded and unlocked firearm.
- In households with a firearm, 41% have a loaded firearm, 21% have a loaded and unlocked firearm, and 23% with a loaded and unlocked firearm also have a child less than 18 in the household.
- In households with a firearm and a child less than 18 years old, 38% have a loaded firearm and 15% have a loaded and unlocked firearm.
The 2023 New Mexico Risk and Resilience Survey (NM -YRRS) was used to examine youth gun carrying and having a firearm in the household, which are key risk factors for firearm injury among youth.
Key findings include:
- 6% of high school students carried a gun in the past year not for hunting or sport.
- 44% of high school students lived in a home that had a gun.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The “Comprehensive Report on Gunshot Victims Presenting at Hospitals in New Mexico” without any doubt is sobering and depressing on a number of levels and underscores the extent of the crisis the state is dealing with when it comes to gun violence. The crime statistics reflect that the state is facing and epidemic in gun violence.
The message that must be sent out loud and clear to violent criminals by our elected officials is that New Mexico has a zero tolerance of violent crimes committed with firearms. The only way to do that is with responsible gun safety measures to reduce the availability of guns and to enhance criminal sentencings. One possible solution to the problem of gun safety in New Mexico is the “Omnibus Gun Control And Violent Crime Sentencing Act.”
Excerpted from Pete Dinelli’s blog of November 9, 2023.