Last year, the U.S. faced a horrifying upsurge in a persisting epidemic that is uniquely American – gun violence. According to fresh research compiled from the latest public data released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the country experienced the deadliest year on record with regard to gun deaths in 2021. This record was shattered for the second consecutive year, with firearm-related fatalities reaching a staggering total of 48,830, which amounts to one death every 11 minutes.
Both gun-related homicides and suicides, unfortunately, hit record highs last year. An increase of over 8 percent was observed in gun-related suicides, marking the largest yearly surge in four decades, while a grim fact emerged that over half of all firearm deaths were suicides.
Despite COVID-19 making 2021 the deadliest year in U.S. history, gun deaths among the youth managed to outpace the pandemic. Gun violence emerged as the top cause of death for those aged 1 to 19, responsible for 20 percent of deaths in this age bracket.
The study also spotlighted the racial disparity in these grim statistics. Black Americans, for example, were 14 times more likely to be victims of gun-related homicide than their white counterparts, with guns causing 51 percent of deaths among Black teens in 2021.
An interesting correlation was also identified between the levels of gun violence and state laws governing gun ownership. States with laxer gun laws witnessed higher instances of gun violence. To put it in perspective, an individual in Mississippi, which struggles with the highest rate of gun violence and poverty in the U.S., was 10 times more likely to fall victim to gun violence than someone in Massachusetts, the state with the lowest gun violence rate.
“Our country is breaking records for all the wrong reasons — record gun sales combined with increasingly permissive gun laws are making gun violence a pervasive part of life in our country, leading to a sharp increase in gun deaths,” observed Ari Davis, the lead author of the study.
Further, Davis linked this uptick in violence to increased gun purchases and legislation passed by Republican lawmakers aimed at weakening gun regulations in recent years. Looking at the preliminary data for the first nine months of 2022, Davis notes that the rate of gun deaths remains as disturbingly high as in 2021.
Worryingly, this trend aligns with other findings indicating an upsurge in gun violence. A report by The Washington Post in February declared 2022 as the worst year for school shootings on record, citing 46 shootings at K-12 schools. An analysis from Pew Research Center this April found a nearly 50 percent increase in gun-related deaths among children under 19 between 2019 and 2021, the largest such increase since the CDC started collecting this data in 1999.
This disturbing research underscores the gravity of the gun violence crisis that continues to plague the U.S., while certain political factions continue to champion gun ownership despite public opinion favoring action to curb this public health crisis.
Indeed, among wealthy nations, the U.S. is an outlier in gun violence, with significantly higher rates of deaths by assault and suicide, predominantly driven by gun violence. With these shocking statistics, it is clear that our country needs to address this issue head-on, prioritizing the safety of our citizens over the proliferation of firearms.