May 10, 2022 – A report from the CDC has shown bleak new data about gun violence in the United States: Firearm murders increased 35% in 2020, reaching the highest level in more than 25 years.
Firearm suicides also remained high – in 2020, 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides involved firearms, according to a new CDC Vital Signs report published Tuesday.
“As an emergency room physician, I’ve seen first-hand the pain and disruption to families that firearms can cause,” Debra E. Houry, MD, CDC’s acting principal deputy director, said during a Tuesday news conference. “These findings underscore the importance of comprehensive approaches that can stop violence now and prevent future deaths.”
The report highlighted troubling racial, ethnic, and class disparities. Black people saw the largest increase in firearm homicides, at 39%, and firearm suicides were highest among American Indian and Alaska Native people, at 42%.
In addition, gun homicide rates were 4.5 times higher in counties with the highest poverty level than those with the lowest, and suicide rates were 1.3 times higher.
“Firearm homicide impacts everybody. We saw it go up in rural, small metro, and large metro areas,” Houry said. “But it does have the highest impact, or the highest rates, in those 10 to 44, who are young Black men and young Black children.”
Adolescents and young adults were also overly affected, the report shows. Homicides increased 40% among those ages 10-24.
Though the CDC found no marked increases in gun-inflicted suicides, the numbers have remained high –24,245 suicides involving firearms occurred in 2020, compared to 19,350 firearm murders.
The CDC did not delve into the reasons behind these numbers, but there are several possible factors – many related to the pandemic, said Thomas R. Simon, PhD, associate director for science in CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention.
“One possible explanation is stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic … like social isolation, and economic stressors like job loss,” Simon said.
He continued, “These stats have devastating effects on families, schools, and entire communities, and have lasting consequences on us as individuals and as a society.”
The CDC has 18 gun-related research projects underway, Houry said.
Anyone having suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to speak with a counselor.