CDC: Firearm Deaths Grow and Disparities Widen

Atlanta, GA–Firearms were involved in 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides in 2020. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a historic increase of 35% 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 CDC Vital Signs analysis.

Firearm homicide rates are consistently highest among males, adolescents, young adults, and non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people. In 2020, firearm homicide rates increased across all age groups, with the highest rates and increases observed among those 10–44 years old. Considering age, sex, and race/ethnicity simultaneously, the largest increases in firearm homicide rates were among non-Hispanic Black males 10–44 years old.

The overall firearm suicide rate remained nearly level between 2019 and 2020, with age-specific rate increases among persons 10–44 years old, partially offset by a decrease among those 45–64 years old. Considering age, sex, and race/ethnicity simultaneously, rates of firearm suicide increased most notably among non-Hispanic AI/AN males aged 10–44.

Among the key findings for firearm homicides:

  • Rates increased for both males and females, but more notably among males.
  • The highest rates and increases occurred among non-Hispanic Black persons.
  • Rates increased across the country in large and small metro areas, as well as non-metro and rural areas.
  • Rates were higher and showed larger increases in counties with higher poverty levels.

Among the key findings for firearm suicides:

  • The overall rate remained nearly level between 2019 and 2020.
  • Rates increased most notably among non-Hispanic AI/AN males aged 10–44 years old.
  • Overall, rates were highest at the highest poverty level and lowest at the lowest poverty level.
  • Non-metro and rural areas experienced the highest rates.

Long-standing systemic inequities and structural racism may contribute to unfair and avoidable health disparities among some racial and ethnic groups.

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