Record number of gun deaths in 2020

Firearm deaths in the United States reached their highest level on record in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Tuesday. Specifically, firearm homicides rose 35%, an increase that has taken an unprecedented toll on black men, the agency’s researchers said.

Posted at 6:00 am

Roni Caryn Rabin
The New York Times

“This is a historic increase, with the rate reaching its highest level in more than 25 years,” said the DD Debra E. Houry, CDC acting assistant director and director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, at a news conference Tuesday.

“We need to be vigilant and address the conditions that contribute to homicides, suicides and observed inequalities,” she added.

According to federal data, more than 45,000 Americans have died in firearm-related events as the pandemic spread across the United States, the highest number on record.

But more than half of firearm deaths have been suicides, and that number has not increased significantly from 2019 to 2020.

The overall increase in firearm-related deaths was 15% in 2020, below the percentage increase in firearm-related homicides, according to the CDC.


Handguns for sale at a gun store in Philadelphia

According to Ari Davis, policy adviser at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, who recently published his own analysis of CDC data, the increase in gun homicides was the largest year-over-year increase in modern history.

He said preliminary figures suggest firearm deaths have remained sustainably high in 2021.

Gun sales and lockdowns

Federal officials and outside experts are unsure of the cause of the spike in gun deaths. The surge parallels the acceleration in gun sales as COVID-19 spread and lockdowns became the norm, the CDC noted.


A Brooklyn police officer cordons off the area of ​​a shooting that took place on April 30, 2020.

But federal researchers also cited increasing social, economic and psychological stressors, disruptions to routine health care, tensions between police and community members following the killing of George Floyd, rising domestic violence, unfair access to health care and longstanding systemic racism contributing to poor housing conditions educational opportunities and high poverty rates.

Homicides committed with firearms were generally the most numerous and recorded the largest increase in poor communities.

One possible explanation is that stressors related to the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a role, including changes and disruptions in services and education, social isolation, housing instability, and difficulties in meeting daily expenses.

Thomas R. Simon, Associate Director of Science at the CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention

Black Americans continued to be disproportionately affected by gun violence in 2020. The rate of firearm homicides among blacks increased by 39.5% to 11,904 from 2019 to 2020. The victims were mostly young men.

Johns Hopkins analysis found that black men between the ages of 15 and 34 accounted for 38% of all gun homicide 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 gunfire than white men of the same age. The number of black women killed by guns also increased by almost 50% in 2020 compared to 2019, said Davis.


Candles commemorating Derek Trucios, a 17-year-old man who was shot dead in New York City in October 2020

Rise in all ethnic groups

The increase in firearm homicide rates has been seen across all racial and ethnic groups, according to the CDC — except for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who saw a slight decrease.

Firearm suicides have long been more common among older white males. But in 2020 rates have risen particularly sharply among Aboriginal people.

“Suicides affect a different demographic, typically middle-aged white males through to older white males in rural communities,” said Davis. We will have to develop different types of solutions to deal with different types of armed violence. »

Learn more

  • Reduce inequalities to prevent deaths
    “Firearm deaths can be prevented, they’re not inevitable,” Debra Houry, director of the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, told reporters, recommending “a comprehensive short-term and long-term approach that focuses on reducing inequalities.” “.


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