Johns Hopkins analysis of CDC firearms suicide data reveals grim milestone


Source: Graphic by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Gun Violence Solutions, based on 2022 CDC data released July 2023The firearms suicide rate among Black teenagers surpassed the rate for white teenagers for the first time on record in 2022, according to a July data analysis by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions. 

The CDC data includes firearm suicides and homicides during 2022. The figures show that gun death rates that year remained at highs not seen in decades and above pre-pandemic levels, according to Johns Hopkins. 

Firearms were also the leading cause of death for children and teens in 2022 for the fifth year in a row. Black children and teens, who have a firearm homicide rate 20 times higher than their white peers, continue to be disproportionately impacted by gun violence, Johns Hopkins found. 

The analysis represents a reset for health reporters covering firearm violence, especially suicide. The spike in suicides among young Black people is both an alarming trend and goes against the conventional wisdom of who is at risk of taking their life.

Overall, gun deaths did decrease by 1.9% in 2022 from 2021, but the overall gun suicide rate in the U.S. increased by 1.6% in 2022 — an all-time high. 

“The provisional data shows that the American epidemic of gun violence persists,” said Ari Davis, policy advisor at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, in a statement about their findings. 

“Guns remain the leading cause of death for children and teens ages 1-19; gun homicides continue to drive deep health inequities by race and ethnicity; and gun suicides continue to take the lives of elderly white men at high rates and increasingly, the lives of Black teens. We are all impacted by this ongoing public health crisis. It is past time for our leaders to enact evidence-based solutions to address it,” Davis said.

The gun death rate decrease was relatively minor; 713 fewer people died by guns in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the data. The numbers show that 48,117 people died by guns in 2022, an average of one person every 11 minutes.. 

The data also showed that the dramatic spike in firearm deaths in 2020 has not returned to pre-pandemic levels: gun deaths are up 21% since 2019. 

The gun homicide rate decreased 6.8% in 2022, with 1,366 fewer gun homicides in 2021. Even with fewer homicides, 2022 had the second-highest gun homicide rate since 1995. The firearm homicide rate in 2022 was 35% higher than it was in 2019, Johns Hopkins found. 

Firearm suicide rates have been steadily increasing since 2006, according to Johns Hopkins. In 2021, the rate reached the highest level since the CDC began recording such data in 1968, and 2022 surpassed that record with 26,993 people dead by firearm suicide

One of the more alarming trends John Hopkins identified in the CDC data was how gun deaths continued to rise for children and teens ages 1 to 19 in 2022. The firearm death rate for that age group was the second highest rate in 25 years, behind only 2021. From 2013 to 2022, the gun death rate among children and teens has increased 87%, fueled by both homicides and suicides. 

Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions also offered specific policy ideas to help reduce firearm violence, including: 

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Kaitlin Washburn

Kaitlin Washburn is AHCJ’s health beat leader on firearm violence and trauma and a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times.