Last January, President Obama issued an executive order that directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to resume its research — after a 17-year hiatus imposed by Congress — on the causes and prevention of gun violence.
Today, the CDC released the latest result of that renewed research effort: a report on firearm homicides and suicides in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas — including Minneapolis — during 2009-2010, the latest years for which the CDC has complete data.
The report’s overall finding — that gun deaths are a continuing public health concern — will not surprise anyone. Tragically, a total of 22,571 people were killed with guns in the United States in 2009-2010, and another 38,126 individuals used a gun to take their own life during that same time period.
The homicide number was down about 11 percent from 2006-2007, when 25,406 people were killed with guns. But the suicide rate was up a similar 11 percent from 2006-2007, when 34,232 people died by shooting themselves.
As an editorial that accompanies the report points out, guns were involved in 68 percent of the homicides and 51 percent of the suicides that occurred during 2009-2010. Among young people ages 10 to 19, guns were responsible for 83 percent of the homicides and 40 percent of the suicides.
Behind the trends
Several factors are behind the homicide trend, the CDC analysts note, including changes in demographics, policing tactics and the markets for illegal drugs.
Indeed, U.S. homicide rates, whether involving a gun or not, have been declining for two decades.
U.S. suicide rates, however, have been heading in the opposite direction: They have been rising in recent years, particularly among middle-aged people, as the CDC reported in May.
“Suicide rates within this age group previously have been associated with business cycles,” the CDC editorialists write, “[and] national unemployment rates notably doubled from 2006-2007 to 2009-2010.”
Increased access to guns by people at risk for harming themselves is also a likely factor in the rising suicide rate, according to the CDC report.
How Minnesota compares
Homicide rates for the 50 metropolitan areas analyzed in the report varied from 1.1 deaths per 100,000 residents in San Diego, Calif., to 19 deaths per 100,000 in New Orleans. The overall rate for all 50 metro areas was 4.3. That compares with a national rate of 3.7.
Minneapolis came in at the lower end of this scale, with a gun-homicide rate of 1.3 per 100,000 residents. The closest city geographically to Minneapolis in the study, Milwaukee, had a much poorer score: 4.5 per 100,000.
The suicide rates for the metro areas in 2009-2010 ranged from 1.6 in New York/Newark to 11.4 in Las Vegas. The combined rate for all the metro areas was 5.4, which compared with a national rate of 7.0.
Minneapolis had a suicide rate of 5.1. Milwaukee’s was similar: 5.6.
It appears, then, that the rate of homicide-by-gun is higher in major metropolitan areas, while the rate of suicide-by-gun is higher elsewhere in the country.
No matter where the shooting deaths are occurring, these are disturbing numbers.
UPDATE: An earlier edition of this article listed the 2006-2007 gun-homicide and -suicide rates for Minnesota and Milwaukee instead of the 2009-2010 rates. Those percentages have been corrected.