NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. gun death rate last year hit its highest mark in nearly three decades, and the rate among women is growing faster than among men, according to a study released Tuesday.
The increase among women — most dramatically, among black women — plays a tragic and unrecognized role, largely skewing men, the researchers said.
“Women may get lost in the debate because many of the dead are men,” said Dr. Eric Fleigler of Harvard Medical School.
Among black women, the rate of gun-related homicides has more than tripled since 2010, and the rate of gun-related suicides has more than doubled since 2015, Fleckler and her co-authors wrote. Paper Published by JAMA Network Open.
David Hemenway, director of Harvard University’s Center for Injury Control Research, said the research is one of the most comprehensive analyzes of U.S. gun deaths in years.
In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data on U.S. gun deaths last year, which put the number at more than 47,000 — the most in at least 40 years.
The U.S. population is growing, but the gun death rate is getting worse, researchers say. America’s gun-related homicide and suicide rates both rose 8% last year, each not seen since the early 1990s.
In the new study, researchers examined trends in gun deaths since 1990. They found that gun deaths began to rise gradually in 2005, but the rise has accelerated recently, rising 20% from 2019 to 2021.
Why have gun deaths increased so dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s “a straightforward question with a complicated answer, and no one really knows the answer,” said Fleigler, an emergency medicine physician at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Factors include disruption to people’s work and personal lives, high gun sales, stress and mental health issues, experts said.
The researchers calculated more than 1.1 million gun deaths in those 32 years — about the same number of U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the last three years.
About 14% of those killed by firearms are women, but the rate increase among them is even greater. Last year there were about 7 gun deaths per 100,000 women, compared to 4 per 100,000 in 2010 – a 71% increase. The comparable increase for men was 45%, up from 18 per 100,000 in 2010 to 26 per 100,000.
For black women, the gun suicide rate rose from 1.5 per 100,000 in 2015 to 3 per 100,000 last year. Their homicide death rate last year was 18 per 100,000, compared with 4 per 100,000 for Hispanic women and 2 per 100,000 for white women.
The highest homicide gun death rates continue to be among young black men, at 142 per 100,000 for those in their early 20s. The researchers reported that whites in their early 80s had the highest gun suicide death rates at 45 per 100,000.
In a commentary accompanying the study, three University of Michigan researchers confirmed racial and gender disparities in U.S. gun deaths, with homicide deaths concentrated in cities and suicides higher in rural areas.
They wrote that “gun violence in the United States is a worsening problem” and many efforts will be needed to control it.
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