Homicide is a leading contributor to loss of life in the productive years. Of the 20,000 homicides yearly in the United States, the majority are committed with firearms. Because homicide rates and gun ownership are highest in the southern states, a descriptive study of 20,980 homicides occurring in five southern states between 1967-1975 was done with particular emphasis on the role of firearms. Total rates in this study were 60% to 85% higher than concurrent national rates. Homicide with firearms accounted for 76.2%, and was the only method of homicide to show a significant increase in rate or a distinctive age distribution. Homicide in the US is a firearms phenomenon. Appropriate and effective regulation of access to firearms is an obvious first step in the prevention of this public health problem.