U.S. gun homicides reached highest level in 25 years during Covid pandemic, CDC says

Mike Blake | Reuters

Gun homicides in the U.S. reached their highest level in more than 25 years during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Homicides from guns rose 35% during the first year of the pandemic to the highest level since 1994, according to a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report published Tuesday. The homicide rate from firearms increased to 6.1 per 100,000 people in 2020 compared to 4.6 per 100,000 in 2019.

Excluding suicides, more than 19,000 people were killed by guns in 2020 compared with more than 14,000 the year prior, according to the CDC report. Homicides from gun violence increased among people of every age, in most racial groups, for men and women, in cities and in rural areas, and in every region of the nation.

Black Americans suffered the most with the homicide rate from gun violence increasing nearly 40% to 26.6 per 100,000 people, about 12 times higher than the rate among white Americans. The disparity was even larger among boys, with the firearm homicide rate 21.6 times higher among Black males ages 10 to 24 compared with white males of the same age.

Gun homicides rose 27% to 8.1 per 100,000 people among Native Americans, nearly 26% among Hispanics to 4.5 per 100,000, and about 28% among whites to 2.2 per 100,000. The firearm homicide rate decreased 4.2% among Asian Americans to per 100,000 individuals.

Separately, suicides involving a firearm increased 1.5% to 8.1 per 100,000 people during the first year of the pandemic. The suicide rate with guns was the highest among whites at 10.4 per 100,000 people and Native Americans at 10.9 per 100,000.

In the U.S., 79% of homicides of 53% of suicides involved guns in 2020, according to the CDC.

Killings and suicides with guns were closely associated with poverty, according to the study. The counties in the U.S. with the highest poverty rates suffered firearm killing and suicide rates that were 4.5 and 1.3 times higher than counties with the lowest poverty levels. Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans were more likely to live in counties with higher poverty rates, according to the CDC.

While the study did not investigate the reasons for the dramatic increase in firearm homicides, the CDC said the pandemic may have played a role by disrupting social services, schools, work, housing as well as the increase in social isolation.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Sophie Tremblay

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