Both gun-related homicides and suicides reached record levels in 2021, leading to nearly 49,000 total firearm deaths.
Firearm-related deaths soared during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic and spiked again in the second year. The eight percent jump – leading to about 3,600 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 – was the largest single-year increase in four decades.
“Our country is breaking records for all the wrong reasons – record gun sales combined with increasingly permissive gun laws are making gun violence a pervasive part of life in our country, leading to a sharp increase in gun deaths,” Ari Davis, policy adviser at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions and lead author of the new report, said in a statement.
More than half of all firearm deaths, as well as most of the year-over-year increase, were suicides, the report found.
White men, along with those 75 and older, were most at risk of gun suicide in 2021, while younger Black men faced a significantly higher risk of dying from a firearm homicide.
Overall, Black people were nearly 14 times more likely to die by gun homicide than White people. More than a third of all gun homicides in 2021 were among Black men ages 15 to 34.
Guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens in the US. More than half of all deaths among Black teens in particular are gun-related, according to the report.
“Each life lost to gun violence represents a family torn apart, a community suffering,” Cassandra Crifasi, co-director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions and co-author of the report, said in a statement. “The data are clear that states with stronger gun violence prevention laws have lower rates of gun violence. Passage of evidence-based solutions would help end the needless suffering happening in all corners of our country.”