Gun deaths continued to surge across the U.S. in the second year of the pandemic, reaching 48,832 in 2021, according to provisional data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. It now stands as the highest single-year tally on record, up eight percent from the previous record in 2020, when 45,222 people died of gunshot wounds, The Trace reports. The data, published on the CDC’s WONDER database and first flagged by the gun reform group Giffords, suggest that firearms deaths, which surged past 40,000 for the first time in 2020, haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. The CDC tracks mortality information via death certificates collected at the state level.
Firearm injury is now the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S., eclipsing car crashes for the fifth year in a row and jumping a spot from its 13th-place ranking in 2020. The age-adjusted gun death rate, 14.8 per 100,000 people, was the highest since 1993, considered a high-water mark year for gun violence. “People are dying by guns at an extraordinary rate,” said Eric Fleegler, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an emergency physician at Boston Children’s Hospital. Fleegler, who began researching gun violence over a decade ago, pointed to the widespread social upheaval during the pandemic, as well as a gun-buying surge that put more than 40 million guns in homes in 2020 and 2021. “The data has been very clear over the years that where there are more guns, there are more deaths,” he said.