It’s no secret that the United States faces a devastating epidemic of gun violence that touches every community across the country. Newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that gun violence impacts an alarming and increasing number of Americans. In 2016 alone, more than 155,000 people were shot—almost 39,000 fatally. That’s 34,000 more gun violence victims than in 2015, and 40,000 more than in 2014. In fact, this new data shows that America’s gun death and injury rates rose for the second straight year in a row, after having remained relatively flat for more than a decade.
Some key takeaways from the new data include:
- In 2016, 106 people were killed by guns and another 318 were wounded every day.
- Nonfatal gun injuries increased by nearly 40% from 2015 to 2016—the largest increase in more than a decade.
- Suicides comprise nearly 60% of gun deaths (22,938 in 2016), yet only 4% of nonfatal firearm injuries. The unique lethality of firearms makes suicide attempts with a gun far more likely to result in death.
- Firearm homicides and assaults have risen precipitously in the last few years. From 2015 to 2016 alone there was a 10% increase in firearm homicides and a 40% increase in nonfatal firearm assaults.
Although these overall increases are striking, communities of color are disproportionately affected by the uptick in gun violence. For example, the gun death rate among black Americans increased by nearly 11% from 2015 to 2016, and data suggests that many of these increases occurred in underserved urban communities.
Children are also at increasing risk. The new CDC data shows that from 2015 to 2016, gun deaths and injuries among minors jumped by nearly 12%. In 2016 alone, an average of 26 minors were shot each day, and gun violence inflicts consequences on children and communities that go far beyond the physical damage. As we examine in our recent report, Protecting the Parkland Generation: Strategies to Keep America’s Kids Safe from Gun Violence, children exposed to shootings suffer a debilitating psychological toll that can lead to long-term physical health problems, decreased academic performance, and diminished future earnings.
While the new data uncategorically brings to light extremely troubling trends, proven solutions exist to address this crisis—solutions the experts at Giffords Law Center are fighting for every day. Policies outlined in our report Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Policies Save Lives from Suicide, such as universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and waiting periods, help save lives from suicide. Evidence-based violence prevention and intervention strategies, like those explored in our report Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence, have shown incredible success in reducing urban gun violence in a relatively short period of time. And laws that limit firearm access by domestic abusers or require safe storage of firearms help protect children from both the physical and psychological toll of gun violence.
The recent months have brought tremendous progress, with renewed attention on the gun violence crisis as the nation demands change and new lifesaving gun laws passing in states—like Florida and Vermont—with historically weak gun laws. This legislative cycle alone, we’ve already doubled the number of states with extreme risk protection order laws—and more are poised to enact this lifesaving legislation. States are also considering and passing laws that would strengthen the background check system, disarm domestic abusers, and provide funding for violence intervention strategies. This change is as meaningful as it is long overdue, and the alarming new data from the CDC provides further evidence that such action could not be more urgent.