Study Led by Emory University Scholar Documents Alarming Racial Gap in Firearm-Related Homicides

Firearm-related violence and suicides have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new study by researchers at Emory University and Boston’s Children’s Hospital shows both the sheer magnitude of firearm fatalities in the U.S. over the past 32 years and the growing disparities by race/ethnicity, age, and geographic location.

Researchers extracted the national number of firearm deaths and firearm fatality rates per 100,000 persons per year from 1990 to 2021 and examined the trends over time. There were 1,110,421 firearm fatalities in the U.S. during this time period. While fatalities began a steady increase in 2005, the upward trajectory has accelerated in recent years with a 20 percent increase from 2019-2021.

“In 2021, we have reached the highest number of gun fatalities that have ever occurred in the U.S.,” says Chris A. Rees, an assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “That alone is cause for concern but when we look deeper into the data, the differences in firearm fatalities by demographic group and by intent (homicide vs. suicide) become more evident.”

Most alarming is that rates of fatalities by homicide amongst Black non-Hispanic men (141.8 fatalities/100,000 persons) significantly outpaced rates of fatalities among White non-Hispanic men (6.3 fatalities/100,000). But the rise in firearm fatalities is not being driven just by males. White non-Hispanic females had increased firearm fatality rates during the time period, mainly associated with increases in suicide, but still significantly lower rates than males. Among Black non-Hispanic females, the rate of fatalities by firearm-related homicide has more than tripled since 2010.

The full study, “Trends and Disparities in Firearm Fatalities in the United States, 1990-2021,” was published on JAMA Open Network. It may be accessed here.

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