Fatal shootings have increased dramatically across the US in recent years, following multiple interconnected events including COVID-19, an economic downturn, and record gun sales. While rates are just now showing signs of a decrease,1Non-suicide fatal shooting rates declined 4.2 percent in 2022 relative to 2021; Everytown Research analysis of Gun Violence Archive (GVA) data, 2021–2022. GVA, accessed May 22, 2023, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/. Two additional reports—one on murders in 90 cities and another on homicides in 27 cities—showed declines of 5 percent in the same period. Datalytics, “YTD Murder Comparison – Dashboards,” 2023, https://www.ahdatalytics.com/dashboards/ytd-murder-comparison/; and Richard Rosenfeld, Bobby Boxerman, and Ernesto Lopez, Pandemic, Social Unrest, and Crime in U.S. Cities: Year-End 2022 Update (Washington, DC: Council on Criminal Justice, January 2023), https://counciloncj.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/CCJ%E2%80%93Crime-Trends-Year-End-2022-Word-for-PDF.pdf. fatal shootings have still risen by over 30 percent since 2019,2In 2022, the US’s rate of non-suicide fatal shootings was 6.1 per 100,000 people; in 2019 it was 4.7. Everytown Research analysis of GVA and US Census American Community Survey (ACS) population data, 2019–2022, accessed May 22, 2023. amounting to an average of nearly 4,700 additional gun deaths each year.3From 2017 to 2019, an average of 15,398 non-suicide fatal shootings occurred in the US; 20,256 occurred from 2020 to 2022. Everytown Research analysis of GVA data, 2017–2022. GVA, accessed May 22, 2023, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/. Less well known than this general upward trend are the changing demographics of victims. New analyses by Everytown Research reveal that while Black men continue to experience alarmingly high rates of gun homicides due to generations of disinvestment, rates are also rising among new groups, including Black women and Latinx and transgender people. At this pivotal moment—especially as we approach summer, when violence is usually at its highest4Leah H. Schinasi and Ghassan B. Hamra, “A Time Series Analysis of Associations between Daily Temperature and Crime Events in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” Journal of Urban Health 94, no. 6 (2019): 892–900, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28687898/; Janet L. Lauritsen and Nicole White, Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2014), https://bjs.ojp.gov/content/pub/pdf/spcvt.pdf.—it is crucial that gun violence prevention initiatives, like community violence intervention programs (CVIs), are accessible and tailored to those most affected.
Fatal shootings have risen 30 percent since 2019
To learn how individuals of different races, ethnicities, and genders have been uniquely impacted by recent rises in gun homicides, Everytown Research analyzed the most up-to-date and reliable data sources on the topic, including CDC death records,5Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics, WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death, https://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10-expanded.html. which detail victim demographics through 2021, and Everytown’s Transgender Homicide Tracker, which aggregates data from media reports through 2022. Several key trends emerged.
Gun Homicide Trends in New and Historically Impacted Communities
Since 2019, gun homicide rates among Black Americans grew faster than for any other racial or ethnic group, increasing by 48 percent.6In 2019, non-Hispanic Black people died by gun homicide at a crude rate of 20.5 deaths per 100,000 people; this rate rose to 30.4 by 2021. Everytown Research analysis of CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, 2019–2021. Black men in particular saw a 44 percent increase,7 In 2019, non-Hispanic Black men died by gun homicide at a crude rate of 38.4, and in 2021 at a crude rate of 55.2. Everytown Research analysis of CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, 2019–2021. and remain the group most likely to die by gun homicide in America.8Four-year average gun homicide crude rates by gender and race/ethnicity are as follows: 45.7 deaths per 100,000 non-Hispanic Black men, 5.6 for Black women, 11.4 for non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) men; 2.8 for AI/AN women; 7.6 for Latino men; 1.2 for Latina women, 2.7 for non-Hispanic white men, 1.0 for white women, 1.7 for non-Hispanic Asian and Pacific Islander (API) men, and 0.5 for API women. Everytown Research analysis of CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, 2018–2021. In fact, Black men today are over 17 times more likely to die by gun homicide than white men.9From 2018 to 2021, non-Hispanic Black men died by gun homicide at an average crude rate of 45.7 deaths per 100,000 people; non-Hispanic white men’s average crude rate was 2.7. Everytown Research analysis of CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, 2018–2021. For a group that already finds itself bearing the brunt of America’s gun violence crisis, these worsening patterns are deeply problematic.
Communities of color experience gun homicides at the highest and fastest-growing rates
Alarmingly, during that same period, gun homicide rates among Black women rose by 79 percent—a notably sharper increase than that experienced by any other gender and racial or ethnic group.10In 2019, non-Hispanic Black women died by gun homicide at a crude rate of 4.1 deaths per 100,000 people; this rate rose to 7.4 by 2021. Non-Hispanic Black men’s crude rate rose from 38.4 to 55.2 (44 percent) during the same period. Everytown Research analysis of CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, 2019–2021. On average, over 560 additional Black women have died from gun homicides each year since 2019,11From 2018 to 2019, an average of 914.5 non-Hispanic Black women died by gun homicides in the US; 1,475 occurred from 2020 to 2021. Everytown Research analysis of CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, 2018–2021. leaving Black women over five times more likely to die by gun homicide than white women, and twice as likely as white men.12On average, from 2018 to 2021, non-Hispanic Black women died by gun homicide at a crude rate of 5.6 deaths per 100,000 people; non-Hispanic white women’s rate was 1.0, and non-Hispanic white men’s rate was 2.7. Everytown Research analysis of CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, 2018–2021.
Black women experienced the greatest increase in gun homicide rates since COVID’s onset
American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) and Latinx communities, too, carry a disproportionate burden of gun homicides in the US, with respective rates 3.8 and 2.4 times higher than those of white people.13On average, from 2018 to 2021, non-Hispanic AI/AN people died by gun homicide at a crude rate of 7.0 deaths per 100,000 people; Latinx people’s crude rate was 4.5, and non-Hispanic white people’s crude rate was 1.8. Everytown Research analysis of CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, Four-Year Average, 2018–2021. Latinx communities in particular experienced the second-highest increase in gun homicide rates (45 percent) since 2019.14 In 2019, Latinx people died by gun homicide at a crude rate of 3.8 deaths per 100,000 people; this rate rose to 5.5 by 2021. Everytown Research analysis of CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, 2019–2021. Due to the chronic miscategorization of ethnicity on death certificates and frequent underreporting of crimes, the true scope of gun violence’s impacts on Latinx communities is likely even larger. For this growing group of Americans, the acceleration of already elevated gun homicide levels spells further hardship.
“One moment, Shane and I were starting our new life together, setting up a new apartment and planning our wedding. The next moment, I was on the phone with someone from the hospital as our future fell apart. Shane’s death continues to have ripple effects on my life, both seismic and small. As more and more people are shot and wounded or killed every day, I know there are countless others like me who feel the weight of our gun violence crisis. Behind every statistic is a life cut short, a future destroyed, and an entire network of family and friends sentenced to a life without their loved ones.”— Vincent Perez, a Moms Demand Action volunteer and Senior Fellow with the Everytown Survivor Network whose fiancé, Shane Colombo, was shot and killed by a stray bullet in Chicago.
Recent increases in gun homicide affect other communities that face ongoing discrimination as well, including transgender and gender nonconforming people. Transgender and gender nonconforming people experienced sharp increases in gun homicide since 2019, with annual counts rising by 40 percent through 2022.15In 2019, at least 20 transgender or gender nonconforming people died by gun homicide in the United States; in 2022, at least 28 did. Everytown Research analysis of Everytown, Transgender Homicide Tracker, 2019–2022. In the absence of reliable transgender population data, counts are utilized here instead of rates. Though the number of transgender gun homicide deaths was just under 30 in 2022, each tragedy ripples beyond the individuals involved. The rise in gun homicides among transgender people is noteworthy given its overlaps with increases in hate-motivated violence and the lack of reliable data on gun violence among the broader LGBTQ+ community. Tragically, Black transgender women are disproportionately targeted, accounting for over six in 10 transgender gun homicide victims on average,16From 2019 to 2022, 122 transgender people (with known gender and race data) died by gun homicide in the United States and Puerto Rico; 78 of them were Black women. Everytown Research analysis of Everytown, Transgender Homicide Tracker, 2019–2022. despite estimates that only one in 10 transgender people are Black.17Jody L. Herman, Andrew R. Flores, and Kathryn K. O’Neill, How Many Adults and Youth Identify as Transgender in the United States? (Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Williams Institute, June 2022), https://bit.ly/3RD9Q8M. This devastating increase is yet another stark reminder of the unique burden Black people and women face when it comes to gun violence in America.
It’s difficult to know exactly what drives spikes in gun homicides—especially as they’re happening—but factors such as chronic underinvestment, discrimination, and record gun sales are likely all relevant, especially among these emerging groups.
The Role of CVIs in Reducing Gun Homicides Across Communities
“The young men crossing the border are not gang members, but they do come from barrios where gangs are active. They sort themselves into groups from a very early age, based on parents who bring them to play in the park, even, so our participant age range is younger than average. Lack of documentation, too, adds to a level of fear and secrecy that makes it important that outreach workers know the culture. But once you’ve made that connection, Central Americans show up. It probably has to do with coming across the border, and wanting a sense of community. You don’t have to go looking for them. No matter what they’re doing, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, we have Roca!’”— Victoria Ramirez-Morales, Project Manager, Central American Youth Initiative, Roca, Inc.
CVIs are among the most evidence-informed strategies for preventing gun homicides today. These programs work by identifying those who are at the highest risk for violence and implementing targeted interventions like street outreach, hospital engagement, cleaning and greening, and more. Funding and support for CVIs has increased dramatically in recent years, with initiatives like the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,18Everytown for Gun Safety, “What is the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, June 21, 2022, https://www.everytown.org/what-is-the-bipartisan-safer-communities-act. and Everytown’s Community Safety Fund playing a key role in ensuring that these programs are more widely available. As CVIs grow in both prominence and necessity for curbing elevated gun violence, it is important that implementers recognize the unique needs and experiences of the communities most directly impacted.
This still predominantly means Black men—who many CVIs, rightly so, mainly serve. But it also increasingly means Black women and American Indian/Alaskan Native, Latinx, and transgender people as well. CVIs can be responsive to these emerging communities by ensuring that training and engagement strategies are culturally informed, diversifying credible messengers, serving new neighborhoods, listening to survivors’ input, and more. Long-term funding from government and philanthropy is also necessary to scale these programs and ensure their ability to respond to changing survivor demographics. Programs like Roca Inc.’s Central American Youth Initiative in Boston, Massachusetts; Inner City Innovator’s Lady Hope Dealers in West Palm Beach, Florida; and Wambli Ska’s violence prevention program in Rapid City, South Dakota, are all examples of how intentional, diverse, and dedicated CVIs are already responding to evolving community needs and can serve as a model to others as they begin to do the same.
Gun homicides increased rapidly in America in recent years, and certain groups—like Black, Latinx, and transgender people—bore the brunt of this escalating violence. CVIs play a key role in driving down these rates today. Tailoring their vital work to address both communities that continue to face legacies of gun violence and those experiencing more recent rises will help to ensure their success at this important turning point.
Megan J. O’Toole
Meg is Deputy Director of Research at Everytown for Gun Safety, where her work focuses on city gun violence, violence intervention programs, and police violence. Prior to joining Everytown, she worked at the Vera Institute of Justice, John Jay’s Research and Evaluation Center, Columbia School of Social Work, and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. Meg holds a PhD in psychology and law from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she also serves as an adjunct professor.
Mackey is a Research Fellow at Everytown for Gun Safety. His research focuses on guns in public spaces, firearm suicide prevention, and ghost guns. Mackey has a bachelor of arts degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Government and Legal Studies and minored in History, and focused on American politics and the Supreme Court.