Gun violence in the United States continues to trend upward amid the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. was higher in 2021 than it’s been since 1993, while firearm suicides were the highest since 1990, each increasing by more than 8% since 2020.
The findings come after the CDC previously reported that the firearm homicide rate increased nearly 35% percent from 2019 to 2020.
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“We had hoped after a 35% increase in one year, that it would either level off or go down,” the study’s lead author Thomas Simon, associate director of science in the CDC’s division of violence prevention, told Today. “But instead, it continued to climb in 2021. And now the suicide rate also climbed.”
While the rates increased among both males and females, disparities grew between racial groups, with the homicide rate for young Black men having "increased in 2021, while the rate among non-Hispanic white people in this age group actually went down slightly," according to Simon.
"The firearm homicide rate for Black people in this age group, 10 to 24, in 2020 was about 20 times as high as the rate among white people," Simon added. "But in 2021, it was almost 25 times as high."
Although the exact reasons for the increase are unknown, societal factors like systemic racism and the stressors posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have been discussed, according to Simon.
"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."
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President Joe Biden previously signed a bipartisan gun safety bill into law in June, enacting commonsense gun laws and providing funding for mental health support and anti-violence programs.