The racial divide on gun deaths in America

Christopher Ingraham at the Washington Post has an interesting factoid to toss out this week regarding gun violence in America. It’s particularly salient in the current political climate since Hillary Clinton keeps slinging around that “30,000 deaths to gun violence” line in her efforts to promote gun grabbing. We’ve already exploded those numbers here, but today we look at a slightly different subset which likely reveals some new factors to consider. What Ingraham is talking about about is the difference in “how different populations experience gun violence.” (Which is really a nicer way of saying how people of different races are being shot.)


The Brookings Institution’s Richard Reeves highlighted one stunning example of this in a recent blog post: Among whites, 77 percent of gun deaths are suicides. But among black Americans, 82 percent of gun deaths are homicides.


This is an important distinction because the growing suicide rate has effectively canceled out the nation’s declining rate of gun-related homicides, resulting in a national gun fatality rate that has been stubbornly stagnant since the late 1990s.

Those are some staggering numbers, but the differences raise a lot of questions. Of all the white people dying by “gun violence” more than three quarters of them are suicides. But among black citizens an even large percentage are homicides. And as we’ve already documented here before, those homicides aren’t evenly divided along racial lines either when it comes to the perpetrators. With the 2014 FBI numbers having been released, we can see that of the 3,021 whites who were killed by guns, 2,488 were killed by other white people. Similarly, among the 2,451 black victims of gun homicides, 2,205 were committed by other black people. (As you’ll note from the graph above, the number killed by “legal intervention” is a barely measurable sliver.)

Perhaps that helps explain this tidbit from the data:

Those different experiences partly explain their divergent views: Whites (61 percent) are nearly twice as likely as blacks (34 percent) to say it’s more important to protect gun rights than to control gun ownership, according to the Pew Research Center.


Across the cultural divide, black citizens are only half as likely to say that it’s important to protect gun rights. Perhaps that’s because their experience has been uniformly worse in that regard. They’re far more likely to be murdered with a gun, and generally it’s by a criminal (not a cop) and disproportionately a black suspect. Unfortunately, we also learned previously that roughly 90% of those guns were either stolen or purchased illegally, not through the legal channels where background checks and others precautions apply.

Just some food for thought this evening.


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John Stossel 1:00 PM | June 15, 2024