May 9, 2022 Blog

2020 Gun Deaths, By The Numbers

Last week, the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions released “A Year in Review: 2020 Gun Deaths in the U.S.”, which illustrates the enormous toll of gun violence using the recently released 2020 CDC firearm fatality data. As we struggled against the global COVID-19 pandemic, a concurrent, uniquely American public health crisis intensified. 2020 saw the highest number of gun-related deaths ever recorded by the CDC and a sharp increase in gun homicides. Here are a few of the takeaways: 

  • There were 45,222 gun deaths in 2020, the highest number of gun-related deaths ever recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    • In Washington State, 864 people died by gun violence in 2020
  • 124 individuals on average died from gun violence every day in 2020
  • Firearm homicides increased by nearly 5,000 deaths, or 35%, from 2019 to 2020
  • Gun violence was the leading cause of death among children, teens, and young adults under the age of 25, accounting for more deaths than COVID-19, car crashes, or cancers
  • In 2020, rural counties had the highest rate of firearm suicide — 2.1 times higher than the most urban counties, where the firearm suicide rate was lowest
  • Black males ages 15–34 were over 20x more likely to be a victim of gun homicide than their white counterparts
  • There was an unprecedented 47% increase in the firearm homicide rate among Black women from 2019 to 2020.

These numbers highlight the enormous toll gun violence takes on our country. At the same time, we know this crisis is preventable. The report asserted what has been known for years: stronger gun laws save lives. Gun death rates vary widely between states. In 2020, Hawaii, the state with the lowest gun death rate and strong gun laws, had a gun death rate eight times lower than Mississippi, the state with the highest gun death rate and among the weakest gun laws. While a wide number of factors influence state level gun death rates including demographic and socioeconomic factors, many of the states with the lowest gun death rates have strong gun violence prevention policies in place.

The report emphasized the importance of Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), which allow individuals to petition a court to temporarily separate someone at risk of harming themselves or others from their firearms. Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Programs were also highlighted as central to solving the root issues of gun violence. Both of these life saving tools exist in Washington: Initiative 1491 established ERPOs in 2016, passing with 71% of the vote, and the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention received $8.4 million this past legislative session to invest in CVI programs in Washington State. The final recommendation was that states should establish a permit-to-purchase system, which currently exist in just nine states but are associated with lower rates of diversion of guns for use in crime, homicide and suicide by firearm, mass shootings, and shootings by police.

In 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 exacerbated the ongoing gun violence epidemic impacting individuals, families, and communities. This report illuminates how gun violence disproportionately impacts both communities of color, young people, and those in the most rural communities. Fortunately, this crisis of gun violence is preventable: evidence-based, common sense gun violence solutions are saving lives. 

– Hazel Brown is Policy and Advocacy Coordinator with the Alliance