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City Dashboard: Murder and Gun Homicide

12.16.2021

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Summary

In the midst of one public health epidemic, COVID-19, 2020 was also one of the deadliest years on record for another public health crisis—gun violence. The United States saw a 28 percent increase over 2019 in gun homicides. This upward trend has continued—but slowed—through September of 2021. There has been a 9 percent increase in gun homicides relative to January–September of 2020. 

Due to limited funding and inconsistent data collection, data on city gun violence is too often old, incomplete, and conflicting from one federal agency to another. Below is the most recent, available, reliable data on murders (firearm and non-firearm) from 2016 to the first three quarters of 2021 and on gun homicides from 2016 to 2020 in nearly 500 cities.

Key Findings

  1. In 2020, murders and gun homicides increased in the US at record rates. In cities overall, murders increased by 33 percent, and gun homicides increased by 37 percent compared to 2019.
  2. In the first half of 2021, murders increased by 8 percent in medium and large cities (population 250,000+) compared to the same period last year.
  3. Midwestern states experienced the highest rate of gun homicide in 2020 and the largest increase in gun homicides—1.5 times higher than in 2019.
  4. In seven cities, the gun homicide rate at least doubled in 2020 compared to 2019: Lubbock, TX; Des Moines, IA; Fresno, CA; Vallejo, CA; Trenton, NJ; Columbus, OH; Syracuse, NY; and Milwaukee, WI. 
  5. The seven cities that experienced the greatest declines in the gun homicide rate from 2019 to 2020 were Virginia Beach, VA; El Paso, TX; High Point, NC; Anchorage, AK; Salt Lake City, UT; Oklahoma City, OK; and Long Beach, CA.
Everytown analysis of 2016–2020 FBI Supplementary Homicide Report (accessed September 2021) and 2020 and 2021 Quarterly Uniform Crime Reports (accessed December 2021).

Compare Murder and Gun Homicide Across Cities

Everytown analysis of 2019–2020 FBI Supplementary Homicide Report (accessed December 2021).

Data Tables: Murder and Gun Homicide

Everytown analysis of 2019–2020 FBI Supplementary Homicide Report (accessed September 2021).

Methodology

Gun homicide data is featured in this dashboard for cities that reported annual data to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) and had populations of at least 65,000. Murder data is featured for cities data to the FBI via the Summary Reporting System (SRS) or the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Because FBI crime reporting is optional for each month of the year, SRS and SHR values occasionally do not match. In cases where (1) SRS and SHR differed by three or more homicides, and, and (2) this difference was greater than five percent of the total murders reported via SRS, data was included but marked with instructions to interpret with caution. In total, 38 instances of specific city-year combinations were flagged.  Separately, FBI data in four cities (Atlanta, GA; Lincoln, NE; Louisville, KY; and Wichita, KS) was removed due to underreporting in both SRS and SHR. In two cities (Philadelphia, PA; Pittsburgh, PA) FBI data was replaced by police department data due to underreporting in both SRS and SHR. For cities with populations over 500,000 that did not report quarterly, the number of murders was obtained from the American Violence website (accessed December 2021).

The FBI defines gun homicides as “murders, non-negligent manslaughters, killings of felons by law enforcement officers or private citizens, and negligent manslaughters.” This data is released by the FBI annually.. Murders are defined by the FBI as the “willful killing of one individual by another.” Typically, gun homicide and murder counts are very similar, because while one includes more crimes, the other includes more weapons; however, murders may surpass gun homicides on occasion, particularly when the proportion of assault-related killings that involve guns (as opposed to weapons like knives, fists, and blunt objections) are relatively low in a given city.

Across the country, city definitions and geographic boundaries lack clarity and are often conflated with counties, metropolitan statistical areas, and more localized communities within them. This dashboard uses Census places to both define city boundaries and populations and allocate law enforcement agencies. For county-level data, please see EveryStat.

Rates and percent changes are only calculated for cities with murder or firearm homicide counts of 10 people and above. Averages are calculated based on the selected and displayed cities. Victim characteristic graphics are calculated using SHR five year totals, and due to rounding, graphs may not add to 100 percent.

Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.

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