Oct. 7, 2022 -- The number of gun-related homicides and suicides each increased by more than 8% from 2020 to 2021, the CDC reported Thursday.
Firearm homicides rose 8.1% from 19,383 in 2020 to 20,966 in 2021. Firearm suicides went up 8.3% from 24,292 to 26,320 in that time period. These were the overall highest firearm homicide and suicide rates since 1993 and 1990, respectively, the CDC said.
The highest homicide rate was in the 25 to 44 age bracket, the CDC said, and overall, Black people continued to have the highest homicide rate in every age bracket.
Thomas Simon, PhD, lead author of the study and associate director for science in the CDC's Division of Violence Prevention, noted that the 2021 firearm homicide rate for Black people in the 10 to 24 age group was about 25 times higher than the rate among white people in that age group, NBC News reported.
There were 25,987 total homicides by all means in 2021, up 5.9% from 2020, with almost 81% involving firearms. There were 48,023 total suicides by all means in 2021, a 4.3% increase over 2020, with firearms used in almost 55% of the suicides.
The CDC report did not give reasons why the homicide and suicide rates went up but noted that “multiple social and structural conditions are associated with risk for homicide and suicide.”
Gun purchases rose sharply in recent years. About 2.9% of U.S. adults became new owners from Jan. 1, 2019, to April 26, 2021, the National Library of Medicine reported. That amounts to 7.5 million new gun owners, with 5.4 million of them living in homes that previously didn’t have guns.
Experts had hoped the firearm homicide rate would level off or drop after going up almost 35% from 2019 to 2020. Simon said societal and personal problems caused by the pandemic probably contributed to the increases.
"When you think about what we all went through as a country, there were substantial changes and disruptions to a range of services, to our educational system, lots of opportunities for increases in mental stress, increases in social isolation, not to mention the economic stressors and job losses and housing instability that we've been experiencing as a country," Simon said. "And all of these factors could have potentially contributed."
The CDC report said street outreach and hospital-based interventions are among the prevention programs that might bring down the rates.