mongkol nitirojaskul/IEEM/Getty Images
According to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate among Americans in gun homicides rose nearly 35% in 2020 to the highest level in more than 25 years.
After the pandemic and recession, gun homicide rates rose most in groups that were already at high risk, the researchers found – people from poorer areas, young men and black people.
In 2020, the firearm homicide rate was 6.1 per 100,000 Americans – up from 4.6 a year earlier.
“These findings underscore the importance of comprehensive approaches that can prevent violence now and prevent deaths in the future,” said CDC’s Acting Principal Deputy Director Dr. Debra Horry.
No group was affected more than black people, who die from firearms kills at a rate far higher than any other racial or ethnic group.
The report found that gun homicides of black men and boys aged 10 to 24 were 21 times more frequent than white men.
Worse, 2020 widened the gap between black people and other groups: the rate of firearm homicides among non-Hispanic black people increased by 7.5 percentage points, four times more than any other.
“We are losing a lot of children and young people in our country – especially black boys and young black men,” said Houari.
A firearm was involved in more than 19,000 homicides in 2020 – an increase of nearly 5,000 from 2019.
The findings follow data published last fall by the CDC and FBI showing that the US saw an unprecedented increase in homicides in 2020, a nearly 30% jump compared to 2019.
One possible explanation for the jump was stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as “changes and disruptions in services and education, social isolation, economic stresses such as job loss, housing instability and difficulty covering daily expenses,” said Thomas Simon. . Associate director of science at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Gun deaths have long been linked to economic factors such as income inequality, unemployment and housing instability.
“When you look at the pandemic, things like job losses, economic stress, social isolation – these were already the hardest hit communities,” Hori said.
The researchers said that even though the number of gun homicides increased dramatically, the majority of gun deaths in the US remained suicides.
The rate of suicide using a firearm – about 8 per 100,000 Americans – remained roughly constant in 2020, a trend that has been going on for several years.
But the finding comes as overall suicide rates decline in 2020, said Mike Anestis, a professor at Rutgers University and executive director of the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center.
He pointed to record gun sales during the pandemic as a possible factor. Over 20 million guns were sold in 2020, up from 12.4 million sold in 2019.
“I think the low point in this paper is that changes in the demographics of firearms ownership and the increase in firearm ownership played a part in this,” Anestis said.
The researchers noted that the overall proportion of suicides and suicides caused by firearms also increased. In 2020, guns were involved in 79% of all homicides and 53% of suicides – both numbers several percentages higher than in previous years.
“Both are unacceptably high. When you look at the number of people dying by homicide or suicide in America we have to do something about it because it’s preventable. These deaths are preventable,” Houari said.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, contact National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Espanol: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or crisis text line By sending a message at home to 741741.