As the nation mourns more than 300,000 people killed by COVID-19, it also is remembering the more than 41,000 people who died in gun violence this year. Many of the same Black and Latino neighborhoods have been disproportionately affected by both epidemics, reports USA Today. The gun death toll, which includes 23,000 people who died by suicide, is a record, says the research group Gun Violence Archive. Annual firearm deaths have never exceeded 40,000 since at least 1981, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. has historically reported a rate of gun homicides 25 times higher than other wealthy nations. Cities across the nation – including Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus, Oh., Greensboro, N.C., Kansas City, Louisville, and Trenton, N.J., already have surpassed all-time records for homicides this year. Others, such as Philadelphia and Fort Worth, are seeing their highest numbers in decades.
Shootings are up 95 percent from the same time last year in New York, up 67 percent in Philadelphia and up 34 percent in Atlanta. In Chicago, where homicides are up 56 percent, shootings also increased by 54 percent. Gun violence has particularly affected young people this year. Nearly 300 children ages 11 and younger were killed, and more than 660 were injured, says the Gun Violence Archive. Among teens ages 12 to 17, more than 1,000 were killed, and nearly 3,000 were injured. Why the surge in gun violence this year? Michael-Sean Spence of the nonprofit Everytown, which advocates for gun control, said the factors are “much of the same,” just on the fast track due to the pandemic. They include surging gun sales, increasing tension between police departments and communities, an extended summer violence spike, and the disruption of school, social services and outreach and intervention programs.