The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not offer an explanation. They did say gunshot wounds remained the nation's second-leading cause of injury-related deaths after traffic accidents.
"Firearm injuries remain a serious public health problem because, in the last year of the study, 1998, there were still 95,000 people in the United States that sustained gunshot wounds. That's an average of about 260 injured persons a day. About a third of those resulted in death," said Lee Annest of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Suicides accounted for most firearm deaths, CDC said, with the highest rate of gun suicides among men age 65 and older.
Researchers said firearm injuries decreased in all categories, regardless of whether they involved an assault, an accident or were intentionally self-inflicted.
"Whatever is impacting the drop in firearm-injury rates is impacting all of the firearm injuries that are occurring across the board," Annest said. "I think it is encouraging that we are seeing this drop, but we do need to continue our prevention efforts to further reduce the problem."
Firearm assaults and murders were highest among males ages 15 to 24.
Of unintentional firearm injuries, 45 percent occurred at home, 53 percent involved a handgun, and 72 percent were self-inflicted, the CDC said.
The statistics were based on data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and the CDC's National Vital Statistics System.
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