Gun murders skyrocketed in the United States in 2020 and reached their highest rate since 1994, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.
The US racked up 19,350 firearm homicides in 2020, as calls to defund the police were sweeping the nation, marking a nearly 35 percent increase from 2019, the CDC said in a report on Tuesday.
The national also recorded 24,245 gun suicides, an annual increase of 1.5 percent but in line with recent trends, and the surge in gun deaths was driven largely by an increase in murders.
‘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 in a statement.
‘By addressing factors contributing to homicide and suicide and providing support to communities, we can help stop violence now and in the future,’ she said.
Gun murders skyrocketed in the US in 2020 and reached their highest rate since 1994, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Protection
Firearms were involved in 79 percent of all homicides and 53 percent of all suicides in 2020, the CDC data showed.
The highest gun homicide rates and increases occurred among black persons, the CDC said.
From 2019 to 2020, the overall firearm homicide rate increased 34.6 percent, from 4.6 to 6.1 per 100,000 persons and the highest rate in more than 25 years.
Geographically, gun homicide rates increased across the country in large and small metro areas, as well as non-metro and rural areas.
The overall firearm suicide rate remained nearly level between 2019 and 2020. Rates of firearm suicide increased most notably among Native American males aged 10–44.
The CDC said in a statement: ‘Long-standing systemic inequities and structural racism may contribute to unfair and avoidable health disparities among some racial and ethnic groups.’
The agency called for a ‘comprehensive approach’ to ‘reduce disparities and the risk for violence.’
NYPD personnel respond to a shooting in Brooklyn last month. The US racked up 19,350 firearm homicides in 2020, as calls to defund the police were sweeping the nation
CDC experts claimed that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic could be to blame for the soaring increase in gun deaths.
‘One possible explanation is stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic that could have played a role’ in the rise, said Tom Simons, an expert in violence prevention at the CDC.
‘These include changes and disruptions to services and education, social isolation, economic stressors such as job loss, housing instability, and difficulty covering daily expenses,’ he told reporters.
The report also acknowledged tensions between the public and law enforcement, noting the wave of protests in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
‘Firearm deaths are preventable, not inevitable,’ said Debra Houry, director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, recommending ‘a comprehensive approach focused on reducing inequity.’
Police investigate a fatal shooting in Chicago in a file photo. CDC experts claimed that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic could be to blame for the soaring increase in gun deaths
She cited the ‘promising’ work of street outreach workers in reducing tensions in high-crime neighborhoods, as well as mediation programs set up in some hospitals to help young people wounded in the streets ‘break the cycle of violence,’ and the work of suicide prevention programs.
Houry also noted the need to address underlying economic factors by offering housing aid or tax credits, and ensuring ‘livable wages’ to lift disadvantaged families out of poverty.
Another avenue being explored is the role of improving the environment, with the creation of green spaces or the cleaning-up of waste lots.
‘Revitalized vacant lots in communities have been associated with reduced firearm assault, with particular benefits in areas with the highest poverty,’ she said.
For confidential support call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.