As an emergency physician in the United States for about 20 years, Houry said it was “common” to treat young men in the emergency room for gunshot wounds. They would often “bleed” on her as she resurrected them.
Then she searched the hospital for a clean white coat to wear “so that I would look respectable and presentable to talk to their families – or someone who survived, but then became paralyzed or suffered traumatic stress as a result of that,” Houry said.
The rate of gun-related deaths in the United States appears to be getting worse.
Between 2019 and 2020, the overall rate of firearm homicides increased by about 35%, according to new data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
“The COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated existing social and economic stressors that increase the risk of homicide and suicide, particularly among certain racial and ethnic communities,” the CDC researchers wrote in their report.
“Rising rates of firearm homicides and consistently high rates of firearm suicide in 2020, with increases among populations that were already at high risk, have widened disparities and heightened the urgency of actions that can have immediate and lasting benefits.”
In 2020, 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides involved firearms, according to the CDC, which is slightly higher than in the previous five years.
Firearm homicides increase, suicide rates remain stable
CDC researchers looked at firearm death data from the agency’s National Vital Statistics systems and National Center for Health Statistics, while looking closely at county-level data. and US Census Bureau data on poverty.
Researchers found that during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, US counties with the highest level of poverty had gun homicide and suicide rates that were 4.5 and 1.3 times, respectively. higher than counties with the lowest level of poverty.
“It’s a big plus for me,” Houry said. “Because if we’re going to see where to intervene, it’s in a lot of these impoverished communities.”
From 2019 to 2020, the overall firearm homicide rate fell from 4.6 deaths to 6.1 deaths per 100,000 people nationwide, according to the new data. But that increase was not evenly distributed, revealing growing disparities in homicides.
The biggest increases in 2020 occurred among black boys and men ages 10 to 44 and Native American or Alaska Native men ages 25 to 44, the data shows.
The CDC’s findings on the rate of firearm homicides closely follow the FBI’s 2020 Uniform Crime Report, released in September of last year.
Meanwhile, the overall firearm suicide rate among people aged 10 and older has remained almost stable between 2019 and 2020, increasing only slightly from 7.9 to 8.1 deaths per 100,000 people, found the CDC researchers in their new report.
“Although the overall rate of firearm suicide remained relatively unchanged between 2019 and 2020, youth and some racial/ethnic minority groups experienced an increase in firearm suicides,” the researchers wrote in their report. .
The biggest increase has been among Native Americans and Alaska Natives, making the group have the highest firearm suicide rate in 2020.
The report data did not include information on the specific type of firearms used. “Often this information is not included on the death certificate. When included, the most common type of firearm is a handgun,” said Thomas Simon, associate director of science at the Division. of the CDC’s violence prevention, during a call on Tuesday.
“When I went to medical school, it wasn’t something we talked about”
Gun violence is a “significant public health issue,” Houry wrote in an opinion piece with Simon and Dr. Alexander Crosby, published Tuesday in the medical journal JAMA.
In their article, they note that clinicians can play a role in talking to patients about gun safety, but medical schools often fail to integrate gun safety, violence prevention, and the determinants social health in their programs.
“When I went to medical school it wasn’t something we talked about or were trained in. I didn’t start thinking about it until I saw the consequences” , Houry said.
“But those who had received formal training were more likely to report a higher level of comfort with asking patients to own a gun,” Houry said. “So for me, it’s about making sure clinicians understand their role and then have the tools to know what to do.”
“We need to understand how we are confusing our society”
Communities can also use this new data on gun deaths to consider interventions to reduce violence.
The CDC currently funds 18 two-year research projects on gun violence. “Thanks to recent appropriations from Congress over the past two years, we were able to fund 18 promising projects to examine innovations aimed at preventing gun violence,” Houry told reporters on a call Tuesday.
He said the increase in homicides has occurred alongside a recent increase in overall violence, hatred, tension, political division and anger displayed in communities across the country.
“We see it literally right before our eyes — at school board meetings and public events,” Benjamin said.
“People seem to have lost all civility, and then you add to that having to stay home and being stressed about it, losing your job, losing resources, fearing for your health, ‘have more weapons,’ he said. “I think we have to find how we confront our society.”
CNN’s Brenda Goodman and Priya Krishnakumar contributed to this report.