Gun deaths reached the highest level on record in the United States in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Tuesday. Gun homicides, in particular, rose 35%, a rise that exacted an unprecedented toll on black men, the agency’s researchers said.
“This is a historic increase, with the rate reaching its highest level in more than 25 years,” said Dr. Debra E. Houry, CDC’s acting senior deputy director and director of the National Prevention Center and injury control, during a press briefing on Tuesday.
“We must be vigilant and address the conditions that contribute to homicides, suicides and observed disparities,” she added.
But more than half of gun deaths were suicides, and that number hasn’t increased significantly from 2019 to 2020.
The overall increase in firearm deaths was 15% in 2020, lower than the percentage increase in firearm homicides, the CDC said.
The rise in gun murders was the largest year-on-year increase seen in modern history, according to Ari Davis, policy adviser at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, who recently published his own analysis of CDC data. .
He said preliminary figures suggest gun deaths have remained sustainably high in 2021.
Federal officials and outside experts are unsure of the cause of the spike in gun deaths. The rise matches the acceleration in gun sales as COVID-19 spread and lockdowns became the norm, the CDC noted.
But federal researchers also cited increased social, economic and psychological stressors, disruptions to routine health care, tensions between police and community members following the killing of George Floyd, increased domestic violence, inequitable access to health care, and long-standing systemic racism that contributes to poor housing conditions, limited educational opportunities, and high poverty rates.
Murders committed with firearms were generally the most numerous, and saw the greatest increases in poor communities.
Black Americans remained disproportionately affected by gun violence in 2020. The rate of firearm homicides increased 39.5% among blacks from 2019 to 2020, to 11,904. Victims were largely majority of young men.
Johns Hopkins analysis found that black men between the ages of 15 and 34 accounted for 38% of all firearm murder victims in 2020, despite making up just 2% of the US population.
Black men between the ages of 15 and 34 were more than 20 times more likely to be killed by firearm than white men of the same age. The number of black women killed by guns also increased by nearly 50% in 2020 compared to 2019, Davis said.
The rise in firearm homicide rates was seen across all racial and ethnic groups, the CDC said — except among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who saw a slight decline.
Gun suicides have long been more common among older white men. But in 2020, the rates have especially increased sharply among Aboriginal people.
“Suicides impact a different population, typically middle-aged to older white males in rural communities,” Davis said. We are going to have to develop different types of solutions to deal with different types of armed violence. »