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What the data tells us about gun violence in the US

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Posted at 1:28 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 16:40:23-04

The level of gun violence in the United States is a uniquely American problem.

Yes, it happens in countries, but not at the same rate.

According to data compiled by William Paterson University, in the 20 years from 1998 to 2019, there were 101 mass shootings, defined by four or more people killed and injured, in the United States.

The next closest developed country on the list is France with eight.

And these are the shootings that get the most national attention, not the ones that plague our cities and neighbors every day.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control shows gun deaths in the United States have been steadily increasing over time. 2020, the year with the most recent available federal data, set a record when 45,222 people died from a gun in the U.S. That number marked a 14% increase from 2019, a 25% increase from 2015, and a 43% increase from 2010.

When you account for a rising population, the numbers are still high. On a per-capita basis, there were 13.6 gun deaths in the U.S. per 100,000 people in 2020, the highest rate since the mid-1990s, but still below the peak of 16.3 gun deaths per 100,000 people back in 1974.

On a large scale, it can be hard to comprehend the numbers since they are so big, and in some cases and neighborhoods, so distant. But when you sit down with mothers like Ms. Lisa Dixon, who lost her 31-year-old son, Brandon, to gun violence on May 9, the reality of what these shootings are doing to American families becomes apparent.

“It just hurts so bad,” said Ms. Dixon as she held up a photo of Brandon. “It’s a pain that I don’t think I’m ever, ever going to be the same again. My kids are my life. It’s a driving force for me, and I feel like it’s just gone now.”

Brandon was at a gas station northeast of Philadelphia when Ms. Dixon says a group of men pulled up and shot him five times in the head. He was a star youth basketball player in the area, a mentor to young men who were picking up the sport and a member of the local youth association.

Trina Singleton also lost her son to gun violence six years ago when a group of men shot him outside of their Philadelphia home.

“That screams to the level of gun violence that’s going on in our country right now,” said Singleton.

A 2013 study by the National Institutes of Health found that for every percent that gun ownership in the United States rose between 1981 and 2010, the homicide rate also rose by 0.9%. In its report, the NIH stated, “there’s a robust correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher firearm homicide rates.”

The same goes for suicides, which account for 2/3 of gun violence deaths in our country. A 2020 study out of Stanford showed men who owned guns were eight times more likely to die by gun suicide than men who did not own guns, and women who owned guns were 35 times more likely to die by gun suicide than those who did not own guns, showing a correlation between firearm availability and firearm death.

“Losing a child is just something you can never come back from,” said Ms. Dixon. “You can never come back from it. And I just have to learn and work through it and try to learn to deal with the pain.”