The U.S. gun death rate reached its highest rate in nearly three decades last year, and the rate among women has grown faster than that among men, according to a study published Tuesday.
The increase below Ladies— most dramatically, in black women — plays a tragic and underappreciated role in a count that is overwhelmingly male, the researchers said.
“Women can get lost in the discussion because so many fatalities are men,” said one of the authors, Dr. Eric Fleegler of Harvard Medical School.
Among black women, gun-related homicides have more than tripled since 2010 and gun-related suicides have more than doubled since 2015, Fleegler and his co-authors wrote in the newspaper published by JAMA network opened.
The study is one of the most comprehensive analyzes of gun deaths in the U.S. in years, said David Hemenway, director of Harvard University’s Injury Control Research Center.
In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on the number of gun deaths in the US last year, at more than 47,000, the highest number in at least 40 years.
The US population is growing, but researchers say gun deaths have also worsened. America’s Gun-Related Murder and suicide rates both were up 8% last year, each at levels not seen since the early 1990s.
In the new study, the researchers examined trends in firearm deaths since 1990. They found that the number of deaths from firearms began to increase steadily in 2005, but the increase accelerated recently, with a 20% jump from 2019 to 2021.
Why has gun deaths increased so dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic? That’s “a simple question with probably a complicated answer that no one really knows the answer to,” says Fleegler, an emergency medicine physician at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The researchers counted more than 1.1 million gun deaths in those 32 years — about the same as the number of U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 over the past three years.
About 14% of those killed by guns were women, but the increase among them is more pronounced. There were about 7 gun deaths per 100,000 women last year, up from about 4 per 100,000 in 2010 – a 71% increase. The comparable increase for men was 45%, the rate increasing to about 26 per 100,000 from about 18 per 100,000 in 2010.
For black women, gun suicide rates rose from about 1.5 per 100,000 in 2015 to about 3 per 100,000 last year. Their murder dead last year was more than 18 per 100,000, compared to about 4 per 100,000 for Hispanic women and 2 per 100,000 for white women.
The highest homicide death rates are still among young black males, at 142 per 100,000 for those in their early 20s. The highest gun suicide death rates are among white men in their early 80s, at 45 per 100,000, the researchers said.
Commenting on the study, three University of Michigan researchers said the paper confirmed racial and sexual disparities in gun deaths in the U.S. and that homicide deaths are concentrated in cities and suicides are more common in country.
“Gun violence is a growing problem in the United States,” and it will take a range of efforts to bring it under control, they wrote.
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