A new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions analyzes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data on firearm deaths for 2020—a year that saw the highest number of gun-related deaths ever recorded by the CDC and a sharp rise in gun-related homicides . Among other things, the report concludes that states with the strictest gun laws have lower gun-related death rates.
The report, A year in review: 2020 gun deaths in the US, illustrating the tremendous toll gun violence in the United States. The report provides an in-depth analysis of the 2020 CDC death toll data released in December 2021; a look at demographic and geographic differences at the state level; and a comparison of other fatal injuries. The report also highlights evidence-based policy recommendations that states can implement to curb gun violence in all its forms.
“Some of this data is staggering, like the number of gun homicides among black women, which has increased by almost 50%. We hope they will draw attention with context and recommendations to fuel the discussion on gun violence prevention.”
Associate Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions
Gun violence in the US increased in 2020 as the country grappled with a spreading pandemic, deep political divisions and social unrest, economic disruption and social isolation. Using CDC mortality data, the analysis found that the total number of firearm-related deaths increased 15% in 2020 to 45,222, the highest number ever recorded by the CDC since gun deaths began recording in 1968 was recorded. This equates to an average of 124 deaths from gun violence every day. Firearm homicides rose 35% in 2020, with nearly 5,000 more homicides than in 2019. While the number of firearm deaths rose to record levels in 2020, the rate — 13.62 per 100,000 deaths — did not surpass historic highs in the United States 1990s.
2020 data shows striking differences between age, gender, race, and US states. As in recent years, gun violence was the leading cause of death for young people under the age of 25. Young people under 30 were almost 10 times more likely to die from a gun than from COVID-19 in 2020. At the other end of the age, people aged 75 and older were at the highest risk of dying from gun suicide, with a gun suicide rate twice the national average.
In 2020, black people — and black men in particular — were disproportionately more affected by gun-related homicides than their white counterparts. Young black males make up 2% of the total US population, yet accounted for about 38% of all gun homicide deaths in 2020. Black children and youth face alarmingly high rates of firearm casualties. More than half of all black teenagers (15-19) who died in 2020 – 52% – were killed by gun violence. Black males ages 15 to 34 were over 20 times more likely to die by gun homicide than their white counterparts. Compared to 2019, gun homicides among black women increased by 49%.
Overall, men were five times more likely to die by gun homicide than women and nearly seven times more likely to die by gun suicide than women. The report’s authors note that gun homicide rates are being driven by the high rates of gun homicides among black men. High firearm suicide rates are caused by high firearm suicide rates among white males.
The report also related firearm deaths to other injury deaths and found that injuries are a significant burden of premature deaths in the United States. Leading cause of fatal injuries in 2020, followed by falls (43,292) and motor vehicle traffic (40,698).
The report analyzed 2020 death data collected from CDC’s Wide-range Online Data for Epidemiological Research database, a publicly available database on a range of public health issues. The data are based on death certificates reflecting the primary cause of death.
“Some of this data is staggering, like the number of gun homicides among black women increasing by nearly 50%,” said Cassandra Crifasi, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and associate director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions . “We hope they will draw attention with context and recommendations to stimulate the conversation about gun violence prevention.”
2020 also saw a record number of gun sales. The report cites research that found nearly twice as many of these new weapons turned up at crime scenes in 2020 as in 2019.
The report found large disparities between states. States with the highest firearm death rates in 2020 were rural states in the South or West. Mississippi had the highest rate of gun deaths in 2020: 28.63 per 100,000 deaths, followed by Louisiana at 26.26 per 100,000 and Wyoming at 25.9 per 100,000. Conversely, Hawaii had the lowest firearm death rate: 3.37 per 100,000, followed by Massachusetts at 3.74 per 100,000 and New Jersey at 5.03 per 100,000.
States with the highest gun death rates in 2020 had stand-your-ground laws, or laws authorizing individuals to use deadly force even in situations they could otherwise have removed themselves from, and three of the five had lawless statutes Carry, allowing individuals to carry a concealed weapon in public without authorization.
The researchers note that the states with the lowest death rates from guns have stricter gun laws. Each of the five states with the lowest gun mortality rates had the following two gun laws in effect in 2020: a firearms license law or waiting period and an extreme risk protection law. Buyer license laws require a person to apply for and obtain a license before purchasing a firearm. The report’s authors recommend states adopt such laws to curb gun violence and find that more than 75% of adults support these laws, including more than 60% of gun owners and Republicans. Extreme Risk Protection Orders are a type of gun confiscation law that creates a civil procedure that allows law enforcement, family members, and in some states, medical professionals to petition the court to temporarily restrain someone who is at risk of harming themselves or others to separate his firearms. The report’s authors recommend states to introduce firearm removal laws, such as B. Extreme Risk Protection Orders and Domestic Violence Protection Orders that protect victims and survivors of domestic violence to limit gun violence.
“While gun violence affects people from all walks of life, the burden is not evenly shared across the US Gun Violence Solutions and lead author of the report. “Policymakers looking to take action can look to states with fewer gun-related deaths and adopt these evidence-based strategies like buyer’s licenses and firearm removal laws.”