US has highest rate of gun-related deaths in more than 25 years, CDC data shows



CNN

Far too often, Dr. Debra Houry has found herself covered in blood.

As an emergency physician in the United States for about 20 years, Houry said it was “common” to treat young men in the emergency room for gunshot wounds. They would often “bleed” on her as she resurrected them.

Then she searched the hospital for a clean white coat to wear “so that I would look respectable and presentable to talk to their families – or someone who survived, but then became paralyzed or suffered traumatic stress as a result of that,” Houry said.

“It was heartbreaking.”

The rate of gun-related deaths in the United States appears to be getting worse.

The rate of firearm homicides in the United States in 2020 was the highest since 1994, according to data released Tuesday by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where Houry is currently acting senior deputy director. and head of the National Center for Injury Prevention.

Between 2019 and 2020, the overall rate of firearm homicides increased by about 35%, according to new data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“The COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated existing social and economic stressors that increase the risk of homicide and suicide, particularly among certain racial and ethnic communities,” the CDC researchers wrote in their report.

“Rising rates of firearm homicides and consistently high rates of firearm suicide in 2020, with increases among populations that were already at high risk, have widened disparities and heightened the urgency of actions that can have immediate and lasting benefits.”

In 2020, 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides involved firearms, according to the CDC, which is slightly higher than in the previous five years.

CDC researchers looked at firearm death data from the agency’s National Vital Statistics systems and National Center for Health Statistics, while looking closely at county-level data. and US Census Bureau data on poverty.

Researchers found that during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, US counties with the highest level of poverty had gun homicide and suicide rates that were 4.5 and 1.3 times, respectively. higher than counties with the lowest level of poverty.

“It’s a big reward for me,” Houry said. “Because if we’re going to see where to intervene, it’s in a lot of these impoverished communities.”

From 2019 to 2020, the overall firearm homicide rate fell from 4.6 deaths to 6.1 deaths per 100,000 people nationwide, according to the new data. But that increase was not evenly distributed, revealing growing disparities in homicides.

The biggest increases in 2020 occurred among black boys and men ages 10 to 44 and Native American or Alaska Native men ages 25 to 44, the data shows.

The CDC’s findings on the rate of firearm homicides closely follow the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report, released in September of last year.

FBI data shows a 29.4% increase in homicides between 2019 and 2020, the biggest jump the agency has ever recorded. The UCR recorded the homicide rate in the United States at 6.5 per 100,000 population. The report also indicates that homicides are increasingly being perpetrated by firearms, indicating that approximately 77% of reported homicides in 2020 were committed with a firearm, compared to 74% in 2019. There is no from the federal gun sales database, but other independent surveys have found that gun sales have skyrocketed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, the overall firearm suicide rate among people aged 10 and older has remained almost stable between 2019 and 2020, increasing only slightly from 7.9 to 8.1 deaths per 100,000 people, found the CDC researchers in their new report.

“Although the overall rate of firearm suicide remained relatively unchanged between 2019 and 2020, youth and some racial/ethnic minority groups experienced an increase in firearm suicides,” the researchers wrote in their report. .

The biggest increase has been among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, making the group have the highest firearm suicide rate in 2020.

The data in the report did not include information on the specific type of firearms used. “Often this information is not included in the death certificate. When included, the most common type of firearm is a handgun,” Thomas Simon, associate director for science in the CDC’s Violence Prevention Division, told reporters during an interview. a call on Tuesday.

Gun violence is a “significant public health issue,” Houry wrote in an opinion piece with Simon and Dr. Alexander Crosby, published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA.

In their article, they note that clinicians can play a role in talking to patients about gun safety, but medical schools often fail to integrate gun safety, violence prevention, and the determinants social health in their programs.

“When I went to medical school, it wasn’t something we talked about or were trained on. I only started thinking about it when I saw the consequences,” Houry said.

As a medical student in the late 1990s, Houry knew gun violence was a problem in America. “But I don’t think I knew the magnitude of it, nor do I think I realized the personal impact it would have on me and my patients,” she said.

In their JAMA article, Houry and colleagues referenced a survey of more than 1,000 family physicians which found that almost half of family physicians, 46%, said they had no training in gun safety advice and about two-thirds, 68%, felt uninformed to discuss gun safe storage devices,

“But those who had received formal training were more likely to report a higher level of comfort with asking patients to own a gun,” Houry said. “So for me, it’s about making sure clinicians understand their role and then have the tools on what to do.”

Communities can also use this new data on gun deaths to consider interventions to reduce violence.

“Child care subsidies can reduce stressors and prevent violence,” Houry said. “We have also funded research into greening initiatives to improve the appearance of vacant land by planting grass and trees. This has been shown to reduce gun assaults by up to 29% in poor areas. »

The CDC currently funds 18 two-year research projects on gun violence. “Thanks to recent appropriations from Congress over the past two years, we were able to fund 18 promising projects to examine innovations aimed at preventing gun violence,” Houry told reporters on a call Tuesday.

The rising homicide rate in the United States is a concerning threat to the nation’s public health — but not surprising, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told CNN last year. .

He said the increase in homicides has occurred alongside a recent increase in overall violence, hatred, tension, political division and anger displayed in communities across the country.

“We literally see it before our eyes — at school board meetings and public events,” Benjamin said.

“People seem to have lost all civility, and then you add to that having to stay home and being stressed about it, losing your job, losing resources, fearing for your health, ‘have more weapons,’ he said. “I think we have to find how we confront our society.”

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