Homicide by firearm has increased significantly since 2019. (Infographic Courtesy of the CDC)

By Stan Washington,
The Atlanta Voice

America’s obsession with its right to bear arms is killing itself – literally. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed what you probably already sensed if you are a regular watcher of local TV news. 

Gun homicides have surged to its highest levels in 25 years during the COVID-19 pandemic according to a report released by the CDC. The research found that the vast majority of homicides, 79 percent, and many suicides, 53 percent, involved a gun in 2020. 

From 2019 to 2020, firearm homicides increased nearly 35 percent with the largest increase being amongst non-Hispanic Black and African American men aged 10-44 years old. That age group currently makes up 39 percent of all firearm homicide victims.

Gun suicides overall remained unchanged from year to year, but they rose significantly among Native American and Alaska native men. 

“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,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H. “By addressing factors contributing to homicide and suicide and providing support to communities, we can help stop violence now, and in the future.”

The study also found that as gun-related deaths have increased, so have disparities in these deaths by race and poverty level. 

Firearm homicides and suicides represent persistent and significant U.S. public health concerns, the CDC said. To reduce gun deaths, “the underlying economic, physical, and social conditions contributing to the risks for violence and suicide” must be addressed. 

“Firearm deaths are preventable—not inevitable—and everyone has a role to play in prevention,” said Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H, CDC acting principal deputy director and director, CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “Resources like CDC’s violence prevention technical packages and surveillance systems can give leaders tools to lay the foundation for healthier and safer communities.”

The CDC cites multiple factors which may have contributed to a higher rate of gun deaths in low-income, Black and Native communities, including disruptions to services and education, mental stress, social isolation, job loss and housing instability.  

“A comprehensive approach is needed to help reduce firearm-related deaths. Strategies that focus on underlying conditions can reduce disparities and the risk for violence while also strengthening protective factors at the individual, family, and community levels,” the report stated. “Some actions can have a more immediate impact on preventing violence, and others can be long-term solutions.

Working with partners, including policymakers; local, state, territorial, and tribal governments; health, education, justice, and social service agencies; businesses; and community organizations, can help ensure that local needs are met.”

More Mass Shootings

It has been a deadly few weeks across the nation, with mass shootings occurring in Laguna Woods, California; Dallas; Milwaukee, Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas. With the exception of Milwaukee and Uvalde, all of these shootings are suspected to be racially motivated. 

The shooting in Buffalo was the deadliest racially motivated attack. Ten people were shot to death by a lone gunman who was later identified as 18-year-old Payton Gendron. Gendron reportedly drove for several hours before the shooting, to specifically target a Black community. Of the 10 casualties he was responsible for, nine of them were either middle aged or elderly. 

“This individual came here with the express purpose of taking as many Black lives as he could,” Buffalo mayor Byron Brown said at a news conference.

The country was still reeling from that shooting when news of a massacre at a Texas elementary school made headlines. Two teachers and a total of 19 students did not survive the attack, carried out by an 18-year-old gunman.

Though not quite halfway through the year, the nation has racked up 7,000 gun deaths and 197 mass shootings. 

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