CDC releases alarming new gun violence statistics, local law enforcement stresses education and prevention
DELMARVA – Tuesday, the CDC released alarming new statistics about gun violence in America.
The health agency says the number of firearm related homicides and suicides spiked 35% between 2019 and 2020. That’s the biggest increase in more than 25 years.
“These findings underscore the importance of comprehensive approaches that can stop violence now, and prevent future deaths,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director and Director of CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Dr. Debra Houry. “We need to be vigilant in addressing the conditions that contribute to homicides and suicides, and the disparities observed.”
While researchers were not able to pinpoint a specific cause for the spike, the CDC says one possible explanation is stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. “These include changes and disruptions to services, education, social isolation, economic stressors such as job loss, housing instability, and difficulty covering daily expenses,” said Associate Director for Science, CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention Dr. Thomas Simon.
The research centered around disparities in gun violence based on age, sex, race and ethnicity, and geographic location. “Black men and boys ages 10 to 44 already had the highest firearm homicide rate. This group saw the largest increase,” said Dr. Simon. “Firearm suicide rates were highest in non-metropolitan, rural areas.”
Dr. Simon says the largest increase in firearm related suicides was in American Indian and Alaskan Native, Hispanic, and Black communities. He noted that the poverty levels those communities commonly face was a contributing factor.
“Firearm homicide and suicide are associated with economic conditions. Racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in communities with surrounding poverty,” said Dr. Simon. “Long standing systemic inequities and structural racism limit economic, housing, and educational opportunities. They contribute tp unfair and avoidable disparities among some racial and ethnic groups.”
Education Is Prevention
On Delmarva, local law enforcement says they want community members to know that gun violence is preventable, not inevitable. “We welcome questions from individuals that are considering becoming gun owners. We can assist them in providing educational pieces,” said Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan.
Worcester County Sheriff Matt Crisafulli says preventing gun violence begins with education and responsible gun ownership. “Safety is always number one in everything that we do. We just encourage residents that if they’re going to own firearms, that they keep those safety measures first and foremost,” he said.
Sheriff Crisafulli says gun owners should keep their firearms locked away, and separately from ammunition. “If you’re going to be a firearm owner – that’s your fundamental right as law abiding citizens – we just encourage them to use safe practices when owning a firearm,” he said. “As residents get older, they should really get into hunter safety courses, and learn the nomenclature of the weapon, get familiar with the firearm, and always treat it as it’s loaded.”
Between 2018 and 2022, Sheriff Crisafulli says there were three firearm related homicides and eight firearm related suicides in Worcester County. While the Sheriff says those numbers may seem insignificant to some, the urgent need to prevent them from rising, is not. Sheriff Crisafulli says that’s especially so if you have little ones at home.
“Being born and raised in for residents, it’s the fabric of our land with hunting, gaming with firearms. A lot of our residents are born and bread with firearms,” he said. “If you have small children, legally the guns have to be locked up and not accessible to small children. We just want to encourage them to ensure that they are not in the reach of the hands of young children.”
Meanwhile in Salisbury, Chief Duncan says 41 guns were taken off streets by law enforcement in 2022. There were 21 instances of shots fired, with at least one person injured, according to the Chief. She says that trend has only grown in recent years. “Instances of firearms recoveries are definitely up. Instances of reports of shots fired, whether or not a victim was injured, are definitely on the increase,” she said.
Chief Duncan says she’s encouraged by the CDC’s tracking of gun violence statistics. But, because gun violence is such a complex issue, she thinks prevention needs to start at home. Chief Duncan says Salisbury Police are there to help.
“Kids know where the handguns are located, they know where the hunting rifles are located. They know where all of those materials are located. If you think that your child has no clue, you’re wrong,” she said. “It’s about that communication that the child and parent have with each other. It’s about understanding the natural curiosities that children have. And, it’s about understanding your commitment and your requirement to keep yourself and your family educated.”
The CDC says gun violence is an extremely complicated issue, and can’t be solved overnight. However, Dr. Houry says measures like community outreach, connecting at risk populations with community services, and counseling and education are good first steps. “Stopping firearm violence now, and in the future, requires a comprehensive approach focused on reducing inequities,” she said. “These approaches can complement the work of law enforcement to help make their jobs easier, and to make communities safer.”