Read our factsheet on the connection between hot weather and urban gun violence, Shootings Spike in Summer Months. For citations, see the text and notes below.
As temperatures soar, so do rates of gun violence, particularly in concentrated urban areas. Over Fourth of July weekend alone in 2017, 102 people were shot in Chicago, a record.1 With school out, longer days, oppressive heat—and easy access to guns—conflicts turn more violent more quickly, and lives end too soon.
Chicago: 1700+ Summer Shootings
Monthly Fatal and Nonfatal Shootings in Chicago in 20162
It’s no secret that Chicago suffers from a devastating gun violence epidemic. Shootings in the Windy City peak in the summer months, with particularly dramatic spikes during holiday weekends—Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.3
While Chicago has the highest number of shootings each year, its per capita rate is actually 13th in the US, behind cities like Atlanta, Detroit, and Memphis.4 In fact, St. Louis, located in a state with much weaker gun laws than Illinois, has an overall shooting rate nearly seven times Chicago’s.5
Murders Rise with the Heat
Homicides Month-by-Month in Three Major Cities in 20166
The Disproportionate Impact of Gun Violence
Black men comprise just 7% of the population but over 50% of firearm homicides, most of which are concentrated in underserved urban communities.7
The Deadly Correlation between Crime and Heat
Year after year, violent crime reaches its highest levels in the summer.8 The relationship is not all that surprising: warm weather encourages people to spend more time outside, where more social interactions occur.9 There are more chances for violence to break out on hot days, especially when employment opportunities or summer programs for high-risk youth are not readily available. Young adults, particularly males age 15–24, are disproportionately both the victims and perpetrators of gun violence, and many shootings occur in public places where young people gather.10
A Crisis in Our Cities
Gun homicides in America are concentrated in urban areas, particularly in impoverished and underserved communities. Cities with large minority populations, like New Orleans, Detroit, and Baltimore, have a homicide rate up to 10 times higher than the national average, a rate that peaks in the summer.11
The Economic Cost of Gun Violence
In addition to the human toll, gun violence has enormous economic consequences on impacted communities, leading to lowered property values, shuttered businesses, and increased healthcare and law enforcement costs. Gun violence is estimated to cost US taxpayers over $229 billion each year.12 Economic suppression in afflicted neighborhoods in turn drives gun violence, creating a deadly cycle.
While the statistics paint a bleak picture, the good news is that proven solutions exist to reduce gun violence in our cities.
- Universal background checks and permit-to-purchase laws make it harder for guns to be sold to prohibited people in private sales.
- Group violence intervention programs identify individuals most likely to commit gun violence and provide opportunities and resources to break the cycle of violence. Richmond, CA, implemented this strategy in conjunction with smart gun laws to cut shootings by an astounding 66% in just seven years.13
- Lost and stolen reporting laws discourage firearm trafficking and straw purchasing and help law enforcement trace crime guns.
- Hospital-based violence intervention programs lower injury recidivism rates and discourage retaliatory violence by working directly with shooting victims.
- Summer-specific programs reduce shootings by giving at-risk youth alternative activities in the hottest months. Chicago’s One Summer program provides summer jobs, while LA’s Summer Night Lights offers free events and activities in public spaces in high-risk areas.
Learn more about proven solutions to urban gun violence in our report Investing in Intervention.
- Peter Nickeas et al., “Chicago police express frustration after more than 100 shot in violent Fourth of July weekend,” Chicago Tribune, July 6, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-july-4-weekend-shootings-violence-20170705-story.html. ⤴︎
- “Crime in Chicagoland,” Chicago Tribune, accessed July 26, 2017, http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/shootings/. ⤴︎
- Monica Davey, “A Weekend in Chicago,” N.Y. Times, June 4, 2016, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/04/us/chicago-shootings.html; Peter Nickeas et al., “Chicago police express frustration after more than 100 shot in violent Fourth of July weekend,” Chicago Tribune, July 6, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-july-4-weekend-shootings-violence-20170705-story.html; Deanese Williams-Harris et al.,“31 shot, 9 fatally, over 21-hour period Monday into Tuesday,” Chicago Tribune, Sept. 6, 2016, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-violence-labor-day-monday-20160905-story.html. ⤴︎
- 2015 overall shooting rates were calculated from data published in The Trace and The Guardian. Francesca Mirabile, “Chicago Isn’t Even Close to Being the Gun Violence Capital of the United States,” The Trace, Oct. 21, 2016, https://www.thetrace.org/2016/10/chicago-gun-violence-per-capita-rate/; “GVA Release City-level Data,” The Guardian, Accessed Aug. 22, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/20/mapping-gun-murders-micro-level-new-data-2015. ⤴︎
- Ibid. ⤴︎
- Homicide data represent the number of homicide victims, not number of incidents. Additionally, the homicide counts include data about homicides of all means, including firearms, knifes, and other weapons. However, evidence indicates that the majority of homicides, particularly in urban areas, are committed with firearms; for instance, 90 percent of homicides in Chicago were perpetrated with a gun (see the University of Chicago’s “Gun Violence in Chicago, 2016” report, available at http://urbanlabs.uchicago.edu/projects/gun-violence-in-chicago-2016). “Victim Based Crime Data,” Baltimore Police Department, accessed July 26, 2017, https://data.baltimorecity.gov/Public-Safety/BPD-Part-1-Victim-Based-Crime-Data/wsfq-mvij; “Crime in Chicagoland,” Chicago Tribune, accessed July 26, 2017, http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/homicides; “2016 Homicide Offense Dataset,” Detroit Police Department, accessed July 26, 2017, https://data.detroitmi.gov/Public-Safety/DPD-2016-Homicide-Offenses-Victims-Confirmed-/g5t9-44q4. ⤴︎
- “Black Homicide Victimization in the United States: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data,” Violence Policy Center, (2014), http://www.vpc.org/studies/blackhomicide14.pdf. ⤴︎
- Martin A. Andresen and Nicolas Malleson, “Crime Seasonality and its Variations across Space,” Applied Geography 43 (2013): 25–35; Matthew Ranson, “Crime, Weather, and Climate Change,” Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 67, no. 3 (2014): 274–302; Janet L. Lauritsen and Nicole White, “Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends,” US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, (2014), https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/spcvt.pdf. ⤴︎
- James Rotton and Ellen G. Cohn, “Global Warming and US crime rates: an Application of Routine Activity Theory,” Environment and Behavior 35, no. 6 (2003): 802–825. ⤴︎
- Nat’l Ctr. for Injury Prevention & Control, U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Web-Based Injury Statistics Query & Reporting System (WISQARS) Nonfatal Injury Reports, http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/nfirates2001.html (last visited Nov. 20, 2012); “Youth Violence Facts at a Glance,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/yv-datasheet-a.pdf. ⤴︎
- Ted Heinrich, “Problem Management: The Federal Role in Reducing Urban Violence,” (2012). ⤴︎
- Mark Follman et al., “The True Cost of Gun Violence in America,” Mother Jones, Apr. 15, 2015, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/true-cost-of-gun-violence-in-america. ⤴︎
- “An Innovative Government Solution to Reducing Gun Violence,” City of Richmond, CA, Office of Neighborhood Safety (ONS), http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/28129. ⤴︎