Gun homicides spiked to the highest level in 25 years during coronavirus pandemic, according to CDC study

Philadelphia, Atlanta, Austin, and other big cities continued the trend with record homicides in 2021

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The firearm homicide rate in the United States surged 35% to the highest level since 1994 in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a CDC study released Tuesday. 

Nearly 20,000 Americans were killed in gun homicides in 2020, with the rate increasing 4.6 to 6.1 per 100,000 persons.

More than 24,000 Americans killed themselves with firearms in the same year, a slight increase over the 23,888 Americans who committed suicide with guns in 2019. 

Authorities investigate a double homicide in Austin, Texas in April. 

Authorities investigate a double homicide in Austin, Texas in April.  (Fox 7 Austin)

"The tragic and historic increase in firearm homicide and the persistently high rates of firearm suicide underscore the urgent need for action to reduce firearm-related deaths," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky wrote on Twitter. "We must work together by taking preventative actions that have both immediate & long-term solutions."

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The CDC's study did not assess the reasons for the surge in gun violence, but the agency suggested that economic, social, and psychological stressors caused by coronavirus and the ensuing economic shutdowns likely played a role. 

Los Angeles police officers stand outside a home where a mother allegedly killed her three children on Mother's Day. 

Los Angeles police officers stand outside a home where a mother allegedly killed her three children on Mother's Day.  (Fox Los Angeles)

Black Americans saw a disproportionate increase in firearm homicides, with the largest increase among Black males between the ages of 10-24, which saw an increase from 54.9 to 77.3 per 100,000 persons

About 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides involved a firearm in 2020. 

Nassau and Hempstead police investigate the scene of a triple homicide in Hempstead, New York. 

Nassau and Hempstead police investigate the scene of a triple homicide in Hempstead, New York.  (Howard Schnapp/Newsday via AP)

The uptick in gun violence appears to have continued in 2021, with several cities setting records for homicides last year, including Atlanta, Austin, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland, St. Paul, and several others. 

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Murders in Chicago reached 797 last year, up 25 from 2020. Los Angeles saw 397 homicides in 2021, the most in 15 years, while New York City had the highest number of homicides since 2011.