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Gun violence claims many lives every year.
69,519 U.S. Latinos were killed with guns from 1999 through 2019, according to a new report from Violence Policy Center (VPC).
The report, which also analyzed lethal gunfire data from 2019 by race/ethnicity, found Latinos have a nearly twice-as-high homicide victimization rate (5.15 per 100,000) than whites (2.62). Most homicides involved firearms, and Latino victims were often youths or young adults.
This issue warrants legislative attention, as too many people still suffer at the hands of guns, according to Josh Sugarman, executive director at VPC.
“A lot of states have not adjusted the way that they approach violence prevention and issues associated with their increasing Latino population,” Sugarman said. “The reason we do studies like these is to raise public awareness, and not just among the general public, but among state policymakers.”
The Gunfire Report and Its Findings
We know that Latinos face violence among other childhood traumas.
In fact, 78% of Latino children suffer at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE), such as witnessing or experiencing violence, according to a Salud America! research review.
Gun violence is often involved, according to VPC’s new report, “Hispanic Victims of Lethal Firearms Violence in the United States.”
Of the 69,519 Latinos killed with firearms between 1999-2019, 44,614 were homicides, 21,466 suicides, and 1,182 unintentional shootings.
For 2019 specifically, 4,058 Latinos were killed with guns:
- 2,301 gun homicides
- 1,534 gun suicides
- 60 unintentional shootings
- 163 undetermined intent or legal intervention
Considering the type of gun used in these shootings, 66% of Latino gun homicide victims were killed with a handgun, which is the highest percentage of any racial group in the country.
Worse, the youngest Latinos suffer the most when it comes to gunfire.
“A large percentage of Latino homicide victims are young — 33% of Latino victims in 2019 were age 24 and younger,” the VPC report states. “In comparison, 34% of Black homicide victims and 19% of white homicide victims were age 24 and younger that year. For all victims, 29% of homicide victims were age 24 or younger.”
Other key findings of the VPC’s report include:
- Homicide is the third leading cause of death for Latinos ages 15 to 24, of these deaths, 87% involved a firearm
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Latinos ages 15 to 24, of these deaths, 37% involved a firearm
Moreover, a study in JAMA Networks found that “21% of US adolescents lived or attended school within 500 meters of a deadly gun violence incident in that year.”
How Leaders Can Make an Impact in Rates of Gunfire Deaths
VPC makes clear that civic leaders should address this issue with legislation to reduce gun violence throughout the country.
Violence-reduction strategies could include:
- Support for community-based violence intervention programs
- Implement educational efforts to better inform Latinos of the gunfire risks associated with risk for homicide, suicide, and unintentional firearm deaths
- Providing improved access to resources for victims and survivors of domestic violence
- Using anti-trafficking measures to help interrupt the flow of illegal firearms
“Year after year, guns exact a lethal toll on Latinos in the U.S., especially among the young,” VPC’s Sugarman said. “Yet because of vast gaps in the way data on Latino ethnicity is collected in our nation, the full scope of this ongoing crisis remains unknown. What we do know is that all too many Latino lives are lost to lethal violence each year, and that guns, especially handguns, play a deciding role.”
Moreover, VPC recommends that government agencies improve the approaches used to report and track findings on Latino victims of gun violence and other lethal violence.
Due to significant restrictions in the way public agencies collect information on Latinos, VPC notes that “the total number of these victims of lethal violence is almost certainly higher than what the study reports.”
There is only one solution to solving the issue of gunfire violence and deaths: Everyone stepping up to urge for action, Sugarman said.
What You Can Do to Help
If action isn’t taken soon, Sugarman notes that it will only get worse given efforts made by gun lobbyists and firearms sellers.
“There’s an industry that’s focused on increasing sales to these groups in the U.S. and they’re very, very aggressive about it,” he said. “And instead of finding protection from new gun ownership, what (Latinos) do is place themselves and their families at a greater risk.”
If you’d like to continue making a difference in your community, you can download a Salud America! Health Equity Report Card.
The report card will show you how you will see how your county is doing on various health-related conditions compared to the rest of your state and nation. The data will show how your area stacks up. You can use this data to illustrate how other health inequities should be the driving factor behind tackling disparities in gunfire deaths.
Email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders. Share it on social media. Use it to make the case to for health equity where it is needed most!