COLUMBUS, Ohio — A university-led study puts the toll from Ohio gun deaths in a grim perspective.
The Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health found that nearly 500,000 years of life have been lost over the past decade from firearm fatalities.
The report was released Friday in the wake of three mass shootings in a seven-day span in Dayton, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; and Gilroy, Calif., that left 35 dead and dozens injured. The shootings have prompted renewed calls for stricter gun laws and other action.
The researchers hoped to show “the real-world impact of some of our most significant public health issues,” said Randy Leite, dean of Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions.
“These are hundreds of thousands of years we’ll never get back, years of lost parenthood, lost employment productivity, lost civic leadership, lost care for elderly relatives and so much more.”
The college and University of Toledo’s College of Health and Human Services established the alliance in 2017 to study some of the state’s most pressing health problems, including drug overdoses and suicides.
The latest report analyzed the 13,001 deaths from firearms between 2009 and 2018, subtracting the age of death from life expectancy based on projections from the Social Security Administration, to calculate 484,122 years lost.
In 2009, 1,087 Ohioans died from firearms, resulting in 41,161 years of life lost. There had been a steady increase in both numbers nearly every year, peaking in 2017 with 1,561 deaths and 59,515 years lost before falling slightly last year.
The deaths were not exclusive to criminal activity. Suicide accounted for half of the total years of life lost, followed by homicide and accidental death.
Ohio’s urban areas had the highest number of years lost during the past decade, led by Cuyahoga County (71,261), Franklin County (68,382) and Hamilton County (47,545).
Adams County in southern Ohio had the highest rate of firearm fatalities in the state, with more than 20 for every 100,000 residents.
The findings “really illustrate the profound effect of firearm deaths on our society as a whole,” said Tracy Plouck, population health executive in residence for Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions.
“Communities all over the state are struggling with this.”
Plouck, emphasizing that suicides and homicides are preventable, said she hopes the findings will inform policymakers as debate heats up after the recent mass shootings.
Gov. Mike DeWine this week asked lawmakers to pass a so-called red-flag law that would allow the court-ordered seizure of guns from those found dangerous to themselves or others. He’s also called for background checks on all gun purchases except between those family members to close the “gun show loophole” that essentially allows sales with no checks; increased state monitoring of social media content, and earlier intervention to address mental health problems among young people.