Guns have claimed more than 1.1 million lives in the US these past three decades, and the rising rate of deaths saw a sharp uptick of 20 percent during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research.
In one of the most comprehensive assessments of gun deaths in years, researchers from Emory University and Boston Children’s Hospital showed that 1,110,421 people were killed by firearms between 1990 and 2021.
Gun-related deaths started climbing steadily from 2005, but that upward trajectory has accelerated in recent years, including an uptick from 2019-2021, as Covid-19 led to lockdowns and economic turmoil.
‘Firearm fatalities accelerated dramatically during the Covid pandemic,’ said Eric Fleegler, a Harvard Medical School professor, a physician at Boston Children’s Hospital and co-author of the study.
‘Multiple potential factors have likely contributed to this, including severe economic distress, an erupting mental health crisis, and a significant uptick in the sale of firearms.’
Researchers built heat maps that showed how firearm deaths were clustered in the West of the country in the 1990s, but gradually spread across the nation, with noticeable spikes in southern states
Researchers have previously described the ‘panic buying’ of firearms during the pandemic. One study showed that between January 2020 and April 2021, some 5.1 million Americans became gun owners for the first time.
Using data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers built heat maps that showed how firearm deaths were clustered in the West of the country in the 1990s.
But the rate of firearm deaths gradually increased across the nation, with noticeable spikes in southern states.
Chris Rees, an assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, lamented reaching the ‘highest number of gun fatalities that have ever occurred in the US’ in 2021.
Young black men experience the highest rates of homicide gun deaths, at 142 per 100,000 for those in their early 20s. The highest gun suicide death rates are in white men in their early 80s, at 45 per 100,000, the researchers said.
Some 5.1 million Americans became gun owners for the first time between January 2020 and April 2021. Pictured: a gun shop in Walnut Creek, California.
Police wait outside a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia on November 23, where seven people died the night before in a mass shooting. The US saw a spate of such gun violence last month
Flowers, candles, and mementos are left at a memorial after a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on November 26. The US witnessed a spate of such gun violence last month
The study, which covers suicides, homicides and accidents, comes after a spate of mass shootings, including in a Walmart Supercenter in Chesapeake, Virginia, and a gay bar in Colorado Springs that combined left dozens killed and injured.
The CDC in October released data on US firearm deaths last year, counting more than 47,000 — the most in at least 40 years.
The question of how to prevent gun violence has long divided politicians and many voters, making it difficult to change gun laws.
In June, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court expanded gun rights, finding a constitutional right to carry firearms in public for self-defense.
Polling earlier this year found that most US adults wanted to see gun laws made stricter and thought gun violence was increasing nationwide.
The University of Chicago survey showed 71 percent of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, including about half of Republicans, the vast majority of Democrats and a majority of those in gun-owning households.