Study Finds that Firearm Death Rates for Black Men in Some U.S. Cities Is Higher Than in War Zones

A new study by researchers at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, and the University of Pennsylvania. notes that in 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death for children, adolescents, and young adults. And the study found that in some zip codes with large populations of young African Americans, the death rate from firearms was higher than for U.S. troops serving as ground troops in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Researchers obtained information on all fatal and nonfatal shootings of 18- to 29-year-old men recorded as crimes in 2020 and 2021 in Chicago; Los Angeles; New York; and Philadelphia — the four largest U.S. cities for which public data on those who were shot were available. Data were aggregated to the zip code level and linked to corresponding demographic characteristics from the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers acquired wartime combat-related mortality and injury counts for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan from peer-reviewed analyses of U.S. military data covering the years 2001 to 2014 for the war in Afghanistan and 2003 to 2009 for the war in Iraq, both of which were periods of active combat.

The researchers found that compared to the risk of combat death faced by U.S. soldiers who were deployed to Afghanistan, the more dangerous of the two wars, young men living in the most violent zip code of Chicago had a 3.23 times higher average risk of firearm-related homicide, and those in Philadelphia faced a 1.9 times higher average risk of firearm-related homicide. Young men in New York and Los Angeles had lower firearm death rates than soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“These results are an urgent wake-up call for understanding, appreciating, and responding to the risks and attendant traumas faced by this demographic of young men,” said Brandon del Pozo, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and an assistant professor of health services, policy, and practice at the university’s School of Public Health.

The full study, “Comparing Risks of Firearm-Related Death and Injury Among Young Adult Males in Selected US Cities With Wartime Service in Iraq and Afghanistan,” was published on the JAMA Open Network. It may be accessed here.

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