Gun deaths increased dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic as economic and social conditions worsened throughout the country — and disproportionately impacted low-income Black and Native communities.
A report released Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the vast majority of homicides (79%) and most suicides (53%) involved a gun in 2020.
The rate of gun-related homicides reached its highest level in 25 years during the COVID-19 pandemic, with firearm homicides going up nearly 35% from 2019 to 2020.
As gun-related deaths have increased, so have disparities in these deaths by race and poverty level.
The biggest increase in gun homicides was among Black men — 39% higher from 2019 to 2020. And while the firearm suicide rate overall remained largely unchanged year over year, gun suicides rose significantly among Native men — 42% from 2019 to 2020.
To reduce gun deaths, the CDC said it was urgent to address the “underlying economic, physical, and social conditions contributing to the risks for violence and suicide.”
“Long-standing systemic inequities and structural racism … contribute to unfair and avoidable health disparities among some racial and ethnic groups,” the agency noted.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple factors may have contributed to a higher rate of gun deaths in low-income, Black, and Native communities, the CDC said, including disruptions to services and education, mental stress, social isolation, job loss and housing instability.
The pandemic has disproportionately ravaged communities of color, with Native people 2.8 times more likely to be infected with the coronavirus than white people and 1.4 times more likely to die of it, according to an August 2020 CDC report; Black people were three times as likely to be hospitalized and twice as likely to die as white people.
It’s also worth noting that there have been over 1,200 fatal police shootings annually in the past few years ― and Black people are far more likely than whites to be killed by law enforcement.