Firearm Homicide Rates for Blacks Spiked During the Early Stages of the Pandemic

Firearm homicides and suicides represent persistent and significant U.S. public health concerns. In 2020, 79 percent of all homicides and 53 percent of all suicides involved firearms.

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that from 2019 to 2020, the overall firearm homicide rate increased 34.6 percent, from 4.6 to 6.1 per 100,000 persons. For African Americans, the firearm homicide rate increased from 19.0 to 26.6 per 100,000 people.

Young persons, males, and Black persons consistently have the highest firearm homicide rates, and these groups experienced the largest increases in 2020. Among the largest increases occurred among non-Hispanic Black males aged 10–44 years.

The authors of the report state that the “reasons for increasing rates and widening inequities are unclear and potentially complex. Several explanations have been proposed, including increased stressors (e.g., economic, social, and psychological) and disruptions in health, social, and emergency services during the COVID-19 pandemic; strains in law enforcement-community relations reflected in protests over law enforcement use of lethal force; increases in firearm purchases; and intimate partner violence. Longstanding systemic inequities and structural racism have resulted in limited economic, housing, and educational opportunities associated with inequities in risk for violence and other health conditions among various racial and ethnic groups.”

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