By Irene Barton, Cobb Collaborative Executive Director
Sadly, it feels that not a day goes by when we don’t see a report about a serious injury or a death involving a firearm. Firearms are now the leading cause of death for children in our country, surpassing motor vehicle deaths. This impacts not only the individuals, but also the family and community on several levels.
In a recently published study, the CDC reports that the majority of homicides (79%) and suicides (53%) in the US in 2020 involved a firearm. Alarmingly, the overall firearm homicide rate increased nearly 35% from 2019-2020. This means the incidence rate increased from 4.6 to 6.1 per 100,000 persons. The study also highlighted the fact that increases were higher in Black or African-American males aged 10-44 years and there were larger increases at higher poverty levels. There appears to be a correlation between societal issues like income levels, unemployment, housing and economic instability and the risk for homicide by firearms. These factors also correlate with high suicide rates, and the CDC report noted “Racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in communities with high surrounding poverty, and firearm homicide and suicide were also associated with poverty.” Firearm suicide rates are highest among males, older adults and White and American Indian/Alaska Native persons. Specifically, there were age-specific increases among persons aged 10-24 and 25-44 with AI/AN representing the most notable ethnic populations.
The reasons for increasing rates and widening inequities are complex, but the CDC notes that these numbers represent important public health concerns. As an organization focused on improving outcomes for all children and families, we urge all gun owners to implement all the safety measures available to mitigate the risk of harm or death by a firearm, particularly when there are children and young adults in the household. One of the most effective mitigation strategies is the safe storage of firearms.
- The safest way to store firearms is unloaded and locked, with ammunition stored separately.
- Always ensure children do not have access to the keys or access codes for safes and lockboxes
- Never leave firearms in your car or in other unsecured areas of your home or property.
- Watch this PSA from Cobb County Police Department
- Schedule a Be SMART presentation for your work, faith, neighborhood, or other group.