The surge in U.S. gun violence in 2020 pushed the firearm homicide rate that year to its highest level in a quarter-century, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This rise in fatal shootings was a nationwide trend, but there were wide gaps across racial, ethnic and economic lines, with the increases in 2020 broadening already existing disparities. In a new report, the CDC said the spike in deadly gun violence was “not equally distributed” in 2020, reports the Washington Post.
“Young persons, males, and Black persons consistently have the highest firearm homicide rates, and these groups experienced the largest increases in 2020,” the report found. “These increases represent the widening of long-standing disparities in firearm homicide rates.”
In some cities, the bloodshed is well below what they saw a generation ago, while other communities have experienced record numbers of killings.
The CDC examined how rates of deaths involving guns shifted in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. The firearm homicide rate that year was higher than in any year since 1994.
The age-adjusted firearm homicide rate “increased substantially” in 2020, rising to 6.1 per 100,000 people from 4.6 a year earlier. Firearm homicide rates went up in every region of the country and in every age group.
About 4 in 5 homicides in 2020 involved firearms, as did a little more than half of all suicides. Both figures were slightly up from the five previous years.
In a recent report, the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions similarly documented a nationwide spike in the firearm homicide rate in 2020, calling it “the largest one-year increase in modern history.” Despite this surge, “the gun homicide rate is still lower than it was in the early 1990s.”
"We’re losing too many of our nation’s children and young people, specifically Black boys and young Black men,” said Debra Houry, the CDC’s acting principal deputy director.
While the firearm suicide rate remained relatively unchanged in 2020 from the year before — rising to 8.1 per 100,000 people from 7.9 per 100,000 people in 2019 — there were stark increases among younger people and some racial and ethnic groups, including Hispanic people, Black people and American Indian or Alaska Native people.
Poverty was also a dividing line, the CDC said. Counties with the highest poverty level in 2020 “had firearm homicide and firearm suicide rates that were 4.5 and 1.3 times as high, respectively, as counties with the lowest poverty level,” the report found.
The report says policies that could bolster a household’s economic stability — such as tax credits and child-care subsidies — can help lower its risk factors for homicide or suicide. “The message for policymakers is we can address these disparities at the community level,” said Houry.