During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US experienced the highest firearm homicide rate in more than 25 years, according to a new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ).
Firearms were involved in 79 percent of all homicides in 2020, an increase of nearly 35 percent from 2019.
Gun-related homicides increased in all demographic groups, in metropolitan and rural areas, and among men and women.
However, the increase was not equally distributed and highlighted significant disparities in race, ethnicity, and poverty levels. The largest increases in 2020 were among young black men between the ages of 10 and 44.
The firearm homicide rate among the youngest black men, ages 10 to 24, was 21.6 times higher than that of white men of the same age, the CDC found.
Firearm homicide rates were higher and showed larger increases in areas with higher levels of poverty. Counties with the highest poverty level had firearm homicide and firearm suicide rates that were 4.5 and 1.3 times higher, respectively, than counties with the lowest poverty level, the CDC found.
“The tragic and historic rise in firearm homicides and persistently high rates of firearm suicide underscore the urgent need for action to reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, in a statement.
“By addressing the factors that contribute to homicide and suicide and providing support to communities, we can help stop the violence now and in the future.”
The study didn’t come to any conclusions about the reasons for the rising rates of gun violence, but the pandemic likely played an outsized role.
“When you look at a lot of these communities that have already been hit hard, you add stressors to them, job loss, economic uncertainty, social isolation, those can be risk factors for violence,” said Debra Houry, director of the National Center for agency. for the Prevention and Control of Injuries.
In an interview, Houry emphasized that gun violence is preventable.
“Many times people find that injuries and death are unavoidable. You know, something that happens, and something that happens to someone else. And it’s not, it’s preventable, and it happens to our family members or community members, to those around us, so we need to act now to prevent it,” Houry said.
Policies like childcare subsidies and affordable housing can help reduce poverty and ease economic stress on families. Houry specifically pointed out that earned income tax credits have been shown to reduce violence and violent crime by 10 percent.
At the community level, he said initiatives like restoring vacant lots by planting trees and grass have been shown to reduce gun violence.
The study marks the first time the CDC has focused a “Vital Signs” report on firearm homicides and suicides. The “Vital Signs” reports focus on threats to public health, but go beyond the numbers and cover solutions.
For decades, Congress blocked CDC funding to study gun violence. The research was never technically banned, but the “advocacy” ban effectively prevented any study from moving forward.
Money was allocated in 2019 for the first time in 20 years. The CDC is currently funding 18 different research projects, and Houry said the hope is that there will be more funding to expand the research.
“There is so much that can be done. So the CDC is really funding that research now to fill in those gaps and really focus on programming strategies that work,” Houry said.
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