The study was published on Tuesday, Nov. 29, in JAMA Network Open, a new online-only open-access general medical journal.
Researchers reviewed 1.1 million firearm deaths from 1990 to 2021. During the last three decades, the gun violence epidemic has worsened, and stark disparities among racial groups persist at even greater levels, the study found.
It’s a problem medical experts said has gotten worse during the covid-19 pandemic.
Dr. Eric Fleegler is one of the study’s authors and a pediatric emergency physician and researcher with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
“At this moment in time, we have seen a dramatic increase that is really unparalleled,” Fleegler told CNN. “During the time of the Covid pandemic, going from 2019 up to 2021, we’ve seen over a 25% increase in fatalities in two years alone. That has never happened.”
“When we think about bad disparities, we’re often thinking about a 20% increase, or a 50% increase. With infant mortality in the United States, when you look at Black infants versus White infants, there’s over a two-fold (difference in) mortality rate. And that is a huge number to think about,” Fleegler continued. “And here we’re talking over 20-fold. These are orders of magnitude differences that are just worsening. And they demand that type of attention.”
Dr. Chris Rees, who works at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in the emergency department, is also one of the study’s authors. He said he’s seen “far more” of a spike in gun homicides in the South.
“Every single time I just think, ‘One, this is awful. Two, this is someone’s kid.’ And I immediately think about my two children at home. And then three, I think, ‘This didn’t have to happen, especially to a child,’ ” Rees said. “It is very personal each time.”
The study recommended solutions are tailored to specific demographic groups due to the stark disparities. “These findings suggest that public health approaches to reduce firearm violence should consider underlying demographic and geographic trends and differences by intent,” the study said.
It also said evidence suggests racism and other societal factors likely contribute to the disparities of gun homicides among Black men.