U.S. Gun Homicides Spiked 35% From 2019 to 2020: CDC Report

The CDC data demonstrated a high level of association between elevated firearms homicide and suicide rates and poor economic conditions, including income inequality, unemployment, and housing and economic instability.

Firearm homicide rates were lowest and increased least at the lowest poverty level (from 2.0 to 2.4 per 100,000 persons) and were higher and showed larger increases at higher poverty levels (e.g., from 7.7 to 10.8 at the highest level),” the report found. “By race and ethnicity, rates were highest and increased most among Black people at the two highest poverty levels. Associations between poverty and firearm suicide are also evident.”

Calls for Action
The CDC report called for a “comprehensive” approach in addressing the factors known to contribute to gun violence.

The increases in firearm homicide rates and persistently high firearm suicide rates in 2020, with increases among populations that were already at high risk, have widened disparities and heightened the urgency of actions that can have immediate and lasting benefits,” the report found.

State and local governments, community partners, and health care and other service providers can use the best available evidence to implement comprehensive approaches to prevent homicide and suicide, including addressing physical, social and structural conditions that contribute to violence and disparities,” it said.

Among the various efforts the agency recommended were measures to “enhance economic and household stability” — community-based efforts to reach people at the highest risk of gun violence through conflict resolution, suicide prevention services and other programs. The agency also recommended raising awareness about safe firearms storage options to reduce access to guns by children and others who should not have them.

Causes Unclear
In discussing its findings, the CDC said the data do not support any specific claims about why gun homicides rose as sharply as they did in 2020.

The findings of this study do not support causal inferences, and reasons for increasing rates and widening inequities are unclear and potentially complex,” the agency said. Among a number of possible drivers, it said, were increased stress and “disruptions in health, social and emergency services during the COVID-19 pandemic”; damaged relationships between communities and law enforcement agencies; increases in firearm purchases; and the exacerbation of long-standing economic disparities in high-risk communities.

Advocates on both sides of the gun control debate had their own ideas about the reasons behind the increase in gun homicides, however.

Record increases in gun sales, children homebound like never before, social isolation, and economic struggles due to COVID-19 put many people at increased risk for gun violence,” the group Everytown for Gun Safety said in a statement. “The pandemic has also highlighted the danger of having weak gun laws that enable easy access to firearms by people with dangerous histories.”

Fred Guttenberg, a gun safety activist, pointed to the sharp increase in firearm sales during the pandemic as the root of the problem. Guttenberg’s daughter, Jaime, was murdered in 2018 during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida,

On Twitter, he wrote, “Nobody should be surprised that gun deaths reached the highest level ever recorded in the United States in 2020. Sadly, this was predictable & preventable. And we did nothing. A gun surge was unleashed during COVID & the results have been deadly.”

In fact, while the absolute number of firearm homicides set a record in 2020, Bureau of Justice Statistics data show the rate of gun homicides was higher in 1993, at about 7 per 100,000. The rate was 6.1 per 100,000 in 2020, according to the CDC.

Democrats Blamed
“I would point out, first of all, that last year from coast to coast — in other words, from Philadelphia to Portland (Oregon), we saw in Democrat-controlled cities homicide records being set,” Erich Pratt, senior vice president of the Gun Owners of America advocacy group, told VOA.

Pratt said numerous public policy decisions made at the local level by “leftist politicians” caused a spike in violent crime, including the abolition of cash bail, early release of certain criminal defendants, and calls to “defund” the police.

The murder rate, which had been on a downward trend for over 20 years, all of a sudden spiked over the last two years,” Pratt said. “And that’s not surprising, given what was happening.”

In an email exchange with VOA, National Rifle Association spokesman Lars Dalseide said, “As communities across the country chose to defund law enforcement, elect soft-on-crime prosecutors, prematurely release dangerous prisoners and institute no-cash bail, no one should be surprised to see an uptick in violent crime.”

Rob Garver is a freelance writer. This article is published courtesy of the Voice of America (VOA).