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Study underscores racism, hard-hit communities in worsening U.S. gun violence

White flowers in vases represent gun violence victims in the United States, while orange flowers represent the increase of gun violence victims in recent years in Washington, D.C. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
White flowers in vases represent gun violence victims in the United States, while orange flowers represent the increase of gun violence victims in recent years in Washington, D.C. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Amid an epidemic of gun violence resulting in 100-plus lives lost each day in the United States, firearm fatality rates have reached a 28-year high.

In fact, such deaths dramatically increased, by 45.5%, between 2004 and 2021, a new study says.

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Overall, the nation's firearm fatality rate per 100,000 people had fallen to a low of 10.1 fatalities in 2004, then climbed back to 14.7 fatalities by 2021, the researchers said.

Their original investigation also found increasingly marked disparities in firearm death rates between men and women, and by racial and ethnic group, over the past few decades. It was published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open.

RELATED Suicide rates dip among White Americans, rise among minorities

The researchers, led by Dr. Chris A. Rees, of the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, analyzed U.S. firearm fatalities from 1990 to 2021 by using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2021, 48,953 fatalities from firearms were recorded, the highest number of such deaths recorded since the CDC began tracking them in 1981, the researchers said.

Of the 1,110,421 U.S. firearm deaths over the study's time period, 85.8% were among males and 14.2% among females. White non-Hispanic people accounted for 60.5% of these deaths, Black non-Hispanic people, 25.8%, and Hispanic people,10.4%.

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Firearm suicide rates were highest among White non-Hispanic men aged 80 to 84 years.

Rates of homicide were highest among Black non-Hispanic men aged 20 to 24 years, at 182.7 fatalities per 100, 000 persons in 1993. The rate fell to 81.4 fatalities per 100,000 in 2014, but then rebounded to 141.8 fatalities per 100,000 in 2021.

By 2021, maximum rates of firearm homicide were up to 22.5 times higher among Black non-Hispanic men, up to 141.8 fatalities per 100,000 people aged 20 to 24 years; up to 3.6 times higher among Hispanic men; and up to 22.8 fatalities per 100,000 people aged 20 to 24 years, the researchers said.

RELATED Homicide, suicide deaths from guns jumped 35% in 2020, CDC reports

That compares with a maximum firearm homicide rate of up to 6.3 fatalities per 100,000 for White non-Hispanic men aged 30 to 34 years.

Cities had higher homicide rates than non-metropolitan areas, while firearm fatalities at the county level increased over time, spreading from the West to the South.

"The findings suggest that public health approaches to reduce firearm violence should consider underlying demographic and geographic trends and differences by intent," the authors concluded.

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