The U.S. gun death rate last year hit its highest mark in nearly three decades, and the rate among women has been growing faster than that
of men, a new study found. The increase among women — most dramatically, in Black women — is playing a tragic and under-recognized role in a tally that skews overwhelmingly male, researchers said. “Women can get lost in the discussion because so many of the fatalities are men,” said one author, Dr. Eric Fleegler of Harvard Medical School, the Associated Press reports.
Among Black women, the rate of firearm-related homicides more than tripled since 2010, and the rate of gun-related suicides more than doubled since 2015, researchers wrote in the paper published by JAMA Network Open.
The research is one of the most comprehensive analyses of U.S. gun deaths in years, said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard University’s Injury Control Research Center. In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on U.S. firearm deaths last year, counting more than 47,000, the most in at least 40 years.
The U.S. population is growing, but the rate of gun deaths has been getting worse, too. Gun-related homicide and suicide rates both rose eight percent last year, each hitting levels not seen since the early 1990s.
In the new study, the researchers examined trends in firearm deaths since 1990. They found gun deaths began to increase in
2005, but the rise accelerated recently, with a 20 percent jump from 2019 to 2021.
Why did gun deaths rise so dramatically during the pandemic? That’s “a straightforward question with probably a complicated answer that no one really knows the answer to,” said Fleegler, an emergency medicine physician at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Factors could include disruption of people’s work and personal lives, higher gun sales, stress, and mental health issues.
The researchers counted more
than 1.1 million gun deaths over 32 years, about the same as the number of U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the last three years.
About 14 percent of those killed by guns were women, but the rate increase among them is more pronounced.