Today’s ‘must read’ report: Firearm violence in North Carolina constitutes a major public health epidemic

A new, statistics-packed report from the good people at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence tolls the terrible damage that firearms are wreaking in our state and nation. According to the report, “Safe North Carolina 2020,” (click here to read the executive summary and here to explore the full report) firearm violence has become a public health crisis that cries out for urgent attention from elected officials.

Consider the following data from the report:

  • The United States has, by far, the highest firearm death rate of all high-income countries worldwide. The 2015 U.S. firearm mortality rate was over 11 times higher than in other high-income countries, and of all firearm deaths among high-income countries that year, 83.7% were in the U.S.
  • In 2018, firearm deaths in the United States reached their second highest level in at least 40 years as 39,740 people were killed by gun violence. That’s 108 individuals per day. Between 2008 and 2018, the rate of firearm mortality in the United States increased nearly 16%.
  • North Carolina is no exception, with a firearm death rate above the average national rate every year from 2008-2018.
  • In 2018, 1,416 North Carolinians were killed by gun violence – 3.9 lives lost per day. That year, N.C. ranked 7th nationally by number of firearm-related deaths, and 24th by firearm mortality rate (13.26 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • In 2018, nearly two in every three firearms deaths in North Carolina were suicides. The number of N.C. children and youth who take their own life with a gun doubled from 2008 to 2018, and firearm suicide rates in this group increased 91%.
  • One in three N.C. firearm deaths is a homicide. North Carolina ranked 11th in the U.S. by number of firearm homicides (489 homicides), and 22nd by firearm homicide rate (4.88 homicides per 100,000).
  • Firearm homicide in N.C. disproportionately impacts Black and Native communities. Black, Non-Hispanic North Carolinians suffer the highest number of homicide deaths: 67% of 2018 N.C. homicides were among this group; and they experienced the highest age-adjusted homicide rate four of the 11 years in this report.
  • N.C. Native Americans experienced the highest homicide rate the other seven years (though the second lowest number of deaths every year except 2018, when they had the 3rd lowest number). Asian-American/Pacific Islanders in N.C. had the fewest homicides,
  • Among N.C. children and youth, the 2018 firearm homicide rate was highest among Black children ages 0-19 years, and was nearly ten times the rate among White children.
  • Legal intervention deaths represent a small but important portion of the overall deaths in the state. By number, White, Non-Hispanic North Carolinians experience the most deaths. While Black North Carolinians experienced approximately half the number of legal intervention deaths as White North Carolinians from 2014 through 2018, the rate of legal intervention death among Black North Carolinians is 1.5 times higher than among White North Carolinians.

The bottom line conclusion from the report: Like most public health crises, the gun violence scourge is a complex phenomenon with a variety of complex causes and effects. By all indications, however, weak gun safety laws constitute a huge part of the problem. As the report’s executive summary puts it: “North Carolina’s current gun safety laws and violence prevention programs need real reform and investment in order to address and reduce gun violence.”

The report should be a “must read” for state lawmakers. Click here read it.

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