Gun Violence in Cities

Every year, the United States has nearly 13,000 firearm homicides. The gun violence disparity between the US and other high-income countries is stark: the U.S. firearm homicide rate is 25 times that of other high-income countries. This risk is not evenly distributed among all Americans.

April 24, 2019

Every year, the United States has nearly 13,000 firearm homicides.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER). A yearly average was developed using five years of most recent available data: 2013-2017. Gun homicides includes all fatal firearm discharge assaults and legal intervention deaths. The gun violence disparity between the US and other high-income countries is stark: the U.S. firearm homicide rate is 25 times that of other high-income countries.Grinshteyn E, Hemenway D. Violent death rates in the US compared to those of the other high-income countries, 2015. Preventive Medicine. 2019; 123: 20-26. This risk is not evenly distributed among all Americans, however.

Gun homicides and assaults are concentrated in cities.

  • One analysis found that in 2015, half of all gun homicides in the U.S. took place in just 127 cities, which together contain less than a quarter of the country’s population.Aufrichtig A, Beckett L, Diehm J, Lartey J. Want to fix gun violence in America? Go local. The Guardian. January 9, 2017. https://bit.ly/2i6kaKw.
  • 31 percent of gun murders occurred in the 50 cities with the highest murder rates, though only 6 percent of Americans live in these cities.Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting Program, 2013-2017. Analysis of gun murders is from the Supplementary Homicide Reports. Population data is from UCR. The top 50 cities are calculated from UCR data based on all murders. It includes cities for which data was available from both UCR and SHR for all years, and that had a population over 100,000.
    • Individuals in these cities are 5 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than Americans overall.Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting Program: Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR), 2013-2017. Calculation of gun murder rates in the top 50 cities for which SHR data was available for all five years, compared to the U.S. gun murder rate over the same period.
    • In some cities, the risk is much higher: residents of Jackson, MS are 9 times more likely to be the victims of a gun murder than Americans overall.Ibid. In New Orleans, residents face a gun murder rate 11 times greater than other Americans.Ibid.

Nonfatal shootings are a serious problem in these cities.

  • For every gun homicide, there are approximately six nonfatal gun assaults.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) Nonfatal Injury Reports. A five-year average was developed using the most recent available data: 2013-2017. The CDC derives national estimates of nonfatal firearm injuries treated in hospitals from a survey of hospitals known as the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). According to the CDC, some of these estimates may be unstable. The CDC’s nonfatal injury data has come under scrutiny largely because of increasing error margins in recent years. Nonetheless, data provided by the CDC on nonfatal injuries are the most common data currently used in gun violence prevention research. To account for fluctuations between years, a yearly average was developed using five years of the most recent available data: 2013 to 2017. This was compared to a yearly average for the same years from: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER).
    • In Baltimore, there are 555 nonfatal shootings every year, more than two nonfatal shootings for every gun homicide.Open Baltimore, “BPD Part 1 Victim Based Crime Data,” accessed at https://bit.ly/2wNE8Rk on 10/5/2018. A yearly average was developed using five years of most recent available data: 2013-2017.
    • In San Francisco, there are 165 nonfatal shootings, almost five for every gun homicide.San Francisco Police Department, Year End Crime Statistics, 2017. https://bit.ly/2SuUusE. A yearly average was developed using five years of most recent available data for shooting victims: 2013-2017.
    • In Louisville, KY there are 320 nonfatal shootings, five for every gun homicide.Louisville Metro Police Department, “Final - Louisville Metro Police Department: Non-Fatal Gunshot Victims Report.” https://bit.ly/2HY4y9n. A yearly average was developed using five years of most recent available data: 2013-2017.
    • These injuries can have devastating consequences for the rest of a survivor’s life, as individuals work to recover from lengthy surgeries, combat mental and emotional trauma, and handle the substantial financial costs of gun violence, including medical bills and loss of income.

Gun homicides and assaults are further concentrated in specific neighborhoods in cities.

  • Gun homicides, nonfatal shootings, and exposure to gun violence reflect and intensify this country’s long-standing racial inequities.Acs G, Pendall R, Treskon M, Khare A. The Cost of Segregation: National Trends and the Case of Chicago, 1990–2010. Urban Institute. 2017. Ludwig J, Kling J. Is Crime Contagious? Journal of Law and Economics. 2007 (50): 491-518. Deliberate policy decisions, particularly a history of housing discrimination, have resulted in segregated neighborhoods and underinvestments in Black and Hispanic communities. Center for American Progress. Systematic Inequality. February 21, 2018. https://ampr.gs/2okO7qy; Chandler A. Cities United. Interventions for Reducing Violence and its Consequences for Young Black Males in America. https://bit.ly/2xGoNPG.
  • In 2015, a quarter of gun homicides in the U.S. occurred in neighborhoods in which less than two percent of the country’s population resides.Aufrichtig A, Beckett L, Diehm J, Lartey J. Want to fix gun violence in America? Go local. The Guardian. January 9, 2017. https://bit.ly/2i6kaKw. Neighborhoods are defined as U.S. census tracts; 1,200 census tracts represent 26 percent of gun homicides and 2 percent of the population.
  • In St. Louis, 28 of the city’s 88 neighborhoods had either zero or one murder in the last five years.St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Crime Summary by Neighborhood. https://www.slmpd.org/crime_stats.shtml. Data reflect year-end reports from 2013-2017. Murders include homicide, negligent manslaughter and non-negligent manslaughter. Justified homicide and legal intervention deaths are not included in this total. But residents of other neighborhoods do not enjoy this safety: 41 percent of murders and 35 percent of all gun assaults occurred in just nine neighborhoods.St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Crime Summary by Neighborhood. https://www.slmpd.org/crime_stats.shtml. Data reflect year-end reports from 2013 to 2017. As murder has increased in St. Louis in recent years, this disparity has grown: between 2012 and 2017, murders rose 82 percent in these neighborhoods, almost double the citywide murder increase of 48 percent.St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Crime Summary by Neighborhood. https://www.slmpd.org/crime_stats.shtml. Data reflect year-end reports from 2013 to 2017.
  • Researchers attribute this trend, where a city grows simultaneously safer and more dangerous, to increases in joblessness, segregation, and wealth inequality.Burnett S, Fenn L. Urban killings rise in clusters, even as cities grow safer. Associated Press (published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch). December 24, 2017. https://bit.ly/2wg6vWw.

This concentration means that firearm homicides and assaults disproportionately affect Black Americans.

  • Gun violence in the U.S. reflects and intensifies this country’s long-standing racial inequities. Black Americans represent the majority of homicide and nonfatal shooting victims in the USCenters for Disease Control and Prevention. National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). A yearly average was developed using five years of most recent available data: 2013 to 2017. and are far more likely than white Americans to be victimized by and exposed to assaultive gun violence.Papachristos AV, Wildeman C, Roberto E. Tragic, but not random: The social contagion of nonfatal gunshot injuries. Social Science & Medicine. 2015; 125: 139-150.
  • Nearly 7,500 Black Americans die by gun homicide every year, a rate 10 times higher than that of white Americans.CDC Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, Fatal Injury Reports data for 2013-2017.
    • The majority of Black American gun homicide victims are males between 15 and 29 years old.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). A yearly average was developed using five years of most recent available data: 2013 to 2017. Analysis of firearm homicides, including legal intervention, among Black non-Hispanic victims.
    • Black males are shot and injured in gun assaults at a rate 15 times higher than white males.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). A yearly average was developed using five years of most recent available data: 2013 to 2017.
  • Within the 50 cities with the highest murder rates, Black Americans are 81 percent of the victims, despite making up only 38 percent of the population.Racial demographic data from U.S. Census Bureau, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. Data is for white alone and black alone; Louisville is for the Louisville/Jefferson County metro government. Rates are calculated from racial demographic data and FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, 2012-2016. This disparity means that black residents are six times more likely to be murdered than white residents in these cities.Ibid.
  • In some cities, this disparity is even starker.
    • 93 percent of all murder victims in Atlanta are Black, although only 52 percent of the city’s population is Black. Atlanta’s Black residents are therefore 13 times more likely to be murdered than white residents.Ibid.
    • These shootings overwhelmingly impact young, Black men who have most of their lives ahead of them. In Pittsburgh, Black men between the ages of 15 and 34 are 56 percent of all gun homicide victims.Allegheny County Analytics. Homicide Trends. Data for 2013-2017. Gun homicide calculated by multiplying the number of homicides by the percent committed with a gun. In Milwaukee, Black men between the ages of 15 and 24 are almost eight times more likely to be homicide victims than Milwaukee residents overall and are ten times more likely to be the victim of a nonfatal shooting.Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission. Annual Report 2015, Homicides and Non-Fatal Shootings. https://bit.ly/2GewfJc. Although the report does not include information on what percentage of these homicides were committed with a gun, 80 percent of homicides in Milwaukee are committed with a gun, so the majority of this violence is gun violence. Compared to all U.S. residents, young Black men in Milwaukee are 44 times more likely to be murdered.Ibid and FBI UCR 2015.

SOLUTIONS

There are a wide variety of proven solutions to reducing this violence and increasing safety in these communities. Everytown supports community-based violence intervention programs, which you can learn more about here. Everytown also recommends community cleaning and greening, often called crime prevention through environmental design, to increase safety. Everytown’s Strategies for Reducing Gun Violence in American Cities report is a great resource to learn more about these and other successful strategies to reduce violence.