Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a historic increase in the firearm homicide rate, resulting in the highest firearm homicide rate in more than 25 years. 

This, along with increases in firearm suicide rates for some groups, has widened racial, ethnic, and other disparities, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs analysis.

New analysis shows firearm homicide rates grew nearly 35% from 2019 to 2020, and firearms were involved in 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides (2020).

The CDC said firearm homicide rates are consistently highest among males, adolescents, young adults, and Black, American Indian and Alaska Native people. 

In 2020, firearm homicide rates increased across all age groups, but the highest was among Black males 10–44 years old.

“The tragic and historic increase in firearm homicide and the persistently high rates of firearm suicide underscore the urgent need for action to reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H said. “By addressing factors contributing to homicide and suicide and providing support to communities, we can help stop violence now and in the future.”

The overall firearm suicide rate remained nearly level between 2019 and 2020, but the rates of firearm suicide increased most notably among American Indian/Alaska Native males aged 10–44.

Other critical findings for firearm suicides: rates were higher in high poverty areas and non-metro rural regions.

A comprehensive approach is needed to help reduce firearm-related deaths, said the CDC. 

Strategies that focus on underlying conditions can reduce disparities and the risk for violence while also strengthening protective factors at the individual, family, and community levels.

Some actions can have a more immediate impact on preventing violence, and others can be long-term solutions.

They added: Working with partners, including policymakers; local, state, territorial, and tribal governments; health, education, justice, and social service agencies; businesses; and community organizations, can help local communities.

“Firearm deaths are preventable—not inevitable—and everyone has a role to play in prevention,” said Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director and director, CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 

“Resources like CDC’s violence prevention technical packages and surveillance systems can give leaders tools to lay the foundation for healthier and safer communities.”

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