Gun deaths hit the highest level ever recorded in the United States in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, as gunshot-related homicides increased by 35 percent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. Disease Prevention (CDC).
“This is a historic increase, as the rate reached the highest level in more than 25 years,” said Dr. Debra E. Houry, acting principal deputy director of the CDC and director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. , at a press conference.
More than 45,000 Americans have died in firearms-related incidents as the pandemic spread in the United States, the highest number on record, federal data shows. The violence took an unprecedented toll on black communities, and early data suggests the trend continued over the past year.
But more than half of gun deaths were suicides, and that number did not increase substantially from 2019 to 2020. The overall increase in gun deaths was 15 percent in 2020, the CDC said.
The rise in gun murders was the largest annual increase seen in modern history, according to Ari Davis, a policy adviser at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, which recently published his own analysis of CDC data. .
Firearm homicides were generally higher and were shown to be greatest in poor communities, federal investigators said.
Federal officials and outside experts aren’t sure what caused the overall rise in gun deaths. “One possible explanation is that stressors associated with the Covid pandemic could have played a role, including changes and disruption to services and education, social isolation, housing instability, and difficulty meeting daily expenses.” said Thomas R. Simon, associate director for science in the CDC’s division of violence prevention.
The increase also corresponded to accelerating firearm sales as the pandemic spread and lockdowns became the norm, the CDC noted. Americans began a gun-buying spree in 2020 that continued into 2021, when in a single week the FBI reported a record 1.2 million background checks.
Today, gun purchases are largely back to pre-pandemic levels, but there are roughly 15 million more guns left in circulation than there would be without the pandemic, according to Garen J. Wintemute, a gun violence researcher at the University of California, Davis.