US gun deaths at 28-year high, report says

Between 1990 and 2021, more than 1 million Americans were killed by firearms

People visit a memorial for a shooting at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, in which seven people, including the gunman, were killed. Getty Images / AFP
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As the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, killing millions over the course of two years, another deadly pandemic was wreaking havoc in the US.

Firearms were responsible for the deaths of more than 48,000 people in 2021, a new study published in medical journal the Jama Network showed — a 25 per cent increase compared to 2019.

In the past three decades, more than one million people have been killed by firearms, according to the study, which relied on data compiled by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The first thing that just jumps off the page to me is just the magnitude of how many individuals have lost their lives and we're talking about mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, aunts, uncles,” Chris Rees, co-author of the report and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Emory University, told The National.

The report found stark racial disparities in those killed by gun violence, with young black men being significantly more likely to be killed than those belonging to other groups.

“The numbers and the differences are just almost incomprehensible in terms of these ratios,” Eric Fleegler, co-author of the study and associate professor of paediatrics and emergency medicine at Harvard Medical School, told The National.

“One of the things we found was that the highest fatality rates among young black men, at 141 per 100,000, just dwarfs the fatality rate compared to white males.”

Both authors stressed that these deaths were “preventable” and reflect a broader problem in the country that needs to be addressed.

“These are not deaths that needed to occur,” Dr Fleegler said.

“The problems in our country, whether it comes to depression and mental health or violence in general, are actually not that different from any other country around the world.”

While the greatest increase in gun-related deaths occurred during the pandemic, the authors found the death rate overall has doubled since 2014.

The US has long struggled with gun violence and mass shootings — defined by an incident in which three or more people are shot and killed, excluding the gunman — have plagued communities across the country.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass a bill banning the assault-style rifles often used in mass shootings, including in Colorado Springs, when a gunman used an AR-15-style weapon to kill five people at a nightclub.

That was the sixth mass shooting in the US this month. There have been at least 611 this year.

Updated: November 30, 2022, 9:31 PM