GUNSIn A Decade, Firearm Deaths Among Young Black People in Rural America Have Quadrupled

By Fairriona Magee

Published 4 May 2024

A new analysis of CDC data shows that gun fatality rates among Black children and teens in rural places are on par with cities, and are primarily driven by a rise in homicides.

For decades, the narrative of gun violence and homicide has been framed as an urban plight disproportionately affecting Black communities in densely populated Northeastern and Midwestern cities. But a new analysis has found that firearm deaths among young Black people in rural locales are on par with — if not higher than — those in cities. 

Since 2013, firearm deaths have quadrupled among Black rural children and teens, primarily because of a rise in homicides, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also put the increasing risk in perspective: Although Black youth make up just 10 percent of the total youth population in rural communities, they comprised 30 percent of firearm homicides among that group in 2022.

The recent study comes in the wake of a 2020 finding by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that firearm-related injuries were the leading cause of death for children and adolescents. Allison Lind, a pediatric nurse practitioner who is the study’s lead author, said the data cemented her team’s motivation for analyzing historical patterns of race and rurality.

“I was shocked to find this steep increase in Black rural youth firearm-related deaths,” Lind said. “There hasn’t been a huge narrative about it, but I felt like this was extremely important because it was not something that just happened with the pandemic — this has been happening over a decade.”

The study analyzed youth deaths between 1999 and 2022 using the CDC Wonder database. The researchers defined “youth” as those between the ages of 1 and 19, and “rural” as places with a population of fewer than 50,000 residents. A decade ago, the analysis showed, Black and white rural youth had similar rates of firearm homicide, contributing to 12 percent of the deaths among Black children and teens and 11 percent among white children and teens. By 2022, Black kids and teens in rural communities were dying from firearms at four times the rate of their white counterparts, representing 20 out of every 100,000 such deaths.