The number of homicides involving guns in the United States rose by more than one-third in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 2019, data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed.
From year to year, a 35% increase in the number of killings involving guns in the United States was reported, the agency said.
As a result, in 2020, the country had its highest gun-related homicide rate in more than 25 years, the CDC said.
Firearms were involved in 79% of all homicides nationally in 2020, up from about 75% in 2019, the agency said in the “Vital Signs” report published Tuesday.
In addition, 53% of all suicide deaths across the country during the first year of the pandemic involved guns, up from just over half in 2019, according to the CDC.
“The tragic and historic increase in firearm homicide and the persistently high rates of firearm suicide underscore the urgent need for action to reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a press release.
“By addressing factors contributing to homicide and suicide and providing support to communities, we can help stop violence now and in the future,” she said.
Minorities, particularly Black Americans and American Indian and Alaska Natives, saw the bulk of the national rise in homicides in 2020, according to a study published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine.
This was true for homicides involving firearms, as well, the new CDC data revealed.
Among Black Americans, gun-involved killings rose 38% from 2019 to 2020, compared to less than 30% for other racial and ethnic groups, the agency said.
States in the mid-Atlantic region — Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. — saw the biggest spike in gun-involved homicides, at 51%, it said.
Gun-involved suicides nationally rose by just under 2% between 2019 and 2020, but increased 15% in people ages 10 to 24 years and 6% in those ages 25 to 44 years, according to the CDC.
Although the gun-involved homicide rate spiked most prominently in large metropolitan areas, the firearm suicide rate actually rose more, by about 3%, in more rural regions nationally, the agency said.
“Firearm deaths are preventable — not inevitable,” Dr. Debra Houry, acting principal deputy director and director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a press release.
“Everyone has a role to play in prevention,” she said.