Firearm homicide rates spiked almost 35 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Firearm suicide rates remained pretty much level over the same period, however.
Researchers indicated that the firearm homicide rate was the highest in more than 25 years and that guns were involved in 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides in 2020
“The tragic and historic increase in firearm homicide and the persistently high rates of firearm suicide underscore the urgent need for action to reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H.
“By addressing factors contributing to homicide and suicide and providing support to communities, we can help stop violence now and in the future,” added Walensky.
Among the key findings for firearm homicides:
- Rates increased for both males and females, but more notably among males.
- The highest rates and increases occurred among non-Hispanic Black persons.
- Rates increased across the country in large and small metro areas, as well as non-metro and rural areas.
- Rates were higher and showed larger increases in counties with higher poverty levels.
Among the key findings for firearm suicides:
- The overall rate remained nearly level between 2019 and 2020.
- Rates increased most notably among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native males aged 10–44 years old.
- Overall, rates were highest at the highest poverty level and lowest at the lowest poverty level.
- Non-metro and rural areas experienced the highest rates.
As noted above, black males between the ages of 10 and 24 suffered the most. Per the report, they were 21 times more likely than their white counterparts to die from gun homicides.
Put another way, young black males make up two percent of the U.S. population but accounted for nearly 38 percent of all gun homicides in 2020, as a Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence analysis explained.
“We’re losing too many of our nation’s children and young people — specifically Black boys and young Black men,” Dr. Debra Houry, the acting principal deputy director of the CDC, told NPR.
As for why there was such a large jump in homicides that disproportionately affected black males living in poorer neighborhoods, Dr. Houry pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When you look at the pandemic, things like job loss, economic stressors, social isolation — these were already hard hit communities,” Dr. Houry noted.
Looking at the aggregate picture, there were a total of 45,222 gun deaths in 2020, approximately 24,000 were suicide and 19,350 were homicides. In 2019, there were 14,414 gun homicides and 23,941 gun suicides, per the CDC.
GunsAmerica reached out to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, for comment on the report.
“The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report already showed America that crime rose dramatically during this same timeframe. That rise in crime also coincided with lax soft-on-crime policies embraced by politicians at the state and federal levels,” said Mark Oliva, NSSF director of public affairs, in an email to GunsAmerica.
“Progressive politicians undermined law enforcement by latching on to the ‘defund the police’ movement that forced drastic cuts in police department budgets and manpower. It was also during that time America also so unchecked crime run rampant not just in one city or state, but in multiple states when protests that followed the unfortunate death of George Floyd morphed into rioting, looting, arson and murders,” he continued. “No bail policies espoused by district attorneys and prosecutors turned criminals back out onto the streets, only to see those same criminals commit more and more serious crimes.”
“The CDC’s attempt to paint lawful firearm ownership with the same brush of the unlawful actions of criminals is a dishonest representation of the criminal crisis with which the United States is grappling. This is also why NSSF is wary of the CDC attempting to address a law enforcement issue as a health issue. The prescription to fight crime isn’t a medical remedy. It is a matter of empowering law enforcement to do their job and demanding prosecutors and district attorneys live up to their oaths of office,” Oliva concluded.