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CDC Report on Gun Homicides Is a 'Heartbreaking' One

First year of pandemic saw a 35% rise in firearm murders from the previous year, per new report
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2022 8:45 AM CDT
Gun Murders Jump to Highest Rate in Quarter Century
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Bytmonas)

(Newser) – The pandemic has wreaked havoc on a variety of fronts, and gun violence hasn't escaped its path. According to a new report from the CDC, the firearm homicide rate in 2020 reached its highest rate since 1994, increasing nearly 35% from the previous year, reports Axios. "That's nearly 5,000 more lives lost to firearm homicides in one year," Thomas Simon, associate director for science at the CDC's Division of Violence Prevention, said during a Tuesday news conference, per NBC News. About 79% of homicides and 53% of suicides in the nation were linked to firearms during that first year of the pandemic, with the CDC calling both of those types of deaths in America a "persistent and significant concern," per Axios. The report also parses the demographics: The largest spikes in gun murders were found among Black males ages 10 to 44, and among Native American or Alaska Native men ages 25 to 44.

"Unfortunately I am not surprised, but it is heartbreaking," Debra Houry, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and acting principal deputy director of the CDC, tells ABC News. The outlet notes that the rise during the pandemic in the buying of firearms, as well as the associated violence and murder, can be tied to the accompanying pressures of the last two years, such as people losing jobs and not being able to pay for rent or arrange for child care. "The COVID-19 pandemic might have exacerbated existing social and economic stressors" already in place due to "long-standing systemic inequities and structural racism"—all of which could have contributed to the violence, the CDC report notes.

The CDC researchers point to pandemic lockdowns and social distancing as adding to the overall tension. Houry cites an urgent need to modify policies to curb the current trends in the US. "[Gun] violence is not inevitable, it's preventable," she tells ABC. The CDC report's suggestions include bolstering welfare initiatives, looking more closely at urban renewal proposals, and hospital-based violence prevention programs (ie, helping young people who are brought to hospitals with gunshot wounds). Meanwhile, though the report gives us a lot of figures to absorb, Simon reminds us of the people behind them. "Our reports contain statistics and numbers, but it's also important to reflect on the individual lives lost," Simon said at Tuesday's presser. "Even one homicide or suicide is too many." (Read more guns stories.)

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