A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a shocking, sobering rise in violence during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Gun deaths reached their highest levels ever recorded in the U.S., the gun homicides surging by a stunning 35 percent. The increase took a disproportionate toll on Black men, the CDC reported.
“This is a historic increase, with the rate having reached the highest level in over 25 years,” said Dr. Debra E. Houry at a press briefing, according to the New York Times. Hury is the acting principal deputy director of the CDC and the director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
All told, over 45,000 Americans died by gun-related incident in 2020. More than half of those were suicides, a number that did not increase significantly between 2019 and 2020. The overall rise in gun deaths between 2019 and 2020 was about 15 percent, and marks the largest one-year increase in modern history. While we still don’t have full data for 2021, Ari Davis, a policy adviser at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, told the New York Times that gun-related deaths seem to have remained “persistently high.”
Researchers aren’t sure why gun violence soared along with the spread of Covid-19. Gun sales in the U.S. rose along with the spread of pandemic-mandated lockdowns, but any actual link remains unclear. Experts cited a number of other factors at play, such as police tensions with local communities; rising inequities in access to healthcare; a surge in domestic violence; growing disparities in housing conditions; and other psychological stressors that may be contributing to leaps in gun violence.
Black Americans suffered the heaviest, the firearm homicides jumping nearly 40 percent between 2019 and 2020. Though young Black men make up two percent of the population, they represent almost 40 percent of the year’s gun murder victims. Meanwhile, the number of Black women who died in a gun-related incident rose by 50 percent that year.