The death of George Floyd and others in recent months has caused a national outbreak of protests and concerns about racial disparities in the US around police enforcement. .Recent articles in the news cover the rise in violence in our cities, often caused by gang conflict. The following information and discussion illustrates the fact that the issues around racial disparities and death are complicated. No one is talking about the number of police who lose their lives because they wear a badge, or the challenges encountered by police and gangs in our inner cities. The simple fact is that gun violence, and all violence, is a major problem in the United States….worse than anywhere else in the world. We need to start working together, as a country and society, to address all acts of violence and concern ourselves with the preservation of life.
The FBI has released its statistics regarding line-of-duty deaths and/or assaults on law enforcement officers in the United States in 2018. A total of 106 police officers lost their lives on duty, a 13% increase on 2017. 55 officers were feloniously killed while 51 died accidentally. The average age of officers killed feloniously was 37 and they had an average tenure of 10 years in law enforcement. Three were female and 52 were male.
When it comes to the circumstances behind non-accidental deaths, 23 officers were killed in the course of investigative or enforcement activities. Another 11 lost their lives in ambushes while six died in pursuits. Line-of duty deaths occurred in 28 states and Puerto Rico. Out of all states, Georgia had the highest number of police officer deaths in 2018 with five, followed by Florida and California with four each. 55 of the officers who died in 2018 were killed with firearms.
Challenges of Gangs/Gang Related Deaths
Gang migration from urban areas to suburban communities has been occurring since the late 1980s and grew in the 1990s. Currently, more than 20,000 gangs consisting of approximately one million members exist in all regions of the United States. Gangs are present in all 50 states, the District of Columbia.
In fact, a staggering 80% of gun homicides are gang-related. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), gang homicides accounted for roughly 8,900 of the 11,100 gun murders in both 2010 and 2011. That means that there were just 2,200 non gang-related firearm murders in both years in a country of over 300 million people and 250 million guns.
So, the issue of gangs is a serious concern for anyone interested in reducing deaths, especially in minority communities.
Shootings kill more than 36,000 Americans each year. Every day, 90 deaths and 200 injuries are caused by gun violence. Unlike terrorist acts, the everyday gun violence that impacts our communities seems to be an accepted way of life.
Of all firearm homicides in the world, 82 percent occur in the United States. An American is 25 times more likely to be fatally shot than a resident of other high-income nations.
Public health scholars who study firearm violence believe that our country is unique in its acceptance of gun violence. Although death by firearms in America is a public health crisis, it is a crisis that legislators accept as a societal norm. Some suggest it is due to the fact that it is blacks and not whites who are the predominant victims. There are data that supports this striking disparity.
Urban and racial disparities
Within the United States, the odds of dying from firearm homicide are much higher for Americans who reside in cities. Twenty percent of all firearm homicides in the U.S. occur in the country’s 25 largest cities, even though they contain just over one-tenth of the U.S. population. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that of the 12,979 firearm homicides in 2015, 81 percent occurred in urban areas.
There is even more: CDC data also show that within our nation’s cities, black Americans are, on average, eight times more likely to be killed by firearms than those who are white. The rate of death by gun homicide for black people exceeds those among whites in all 50 states, but there is tremendous variation in the magnitude of this disparity. In 2015, a black person living in Wisconsin was 26 times more likely to be fatally shot than a white person in that state. At the same time, a black person in Arizona was “only” 3.2 times more likely than a white person to be killed by a gun. The combination of being black and living in an urban area is even more deadly. In 2015, the black homicide rate for urban areas in Missouri was higher than the total death rate from any cause in New York state.
These differences across states occur primarily because the gap between levels of disadvantage among white and black Americans differs sharply by state. For example, Wisconsin – the state with the highest disparity between black and white firearm homicide rates – has the second-highest gap of any state between black and white incarceration rates, and the second-highest gap between black and white unemployment rates. Racial disparities in advantage translate into racial disparities in firearm violence victimization.
Americans are 128 times more likely to be killed in everyday gun violence than by any act of international terrorism. And a black person living in an urban area is almost 500 times more likely to be killed by everyday gun violence than by terrorism. From a public health perspective, efforts to combat firearm violence need to be every bit as strong as those to fight terrorism.
So, the issues of gun violence, unnecessary deaths from violence, and reducing violence in all areas is both a challenge and complicated. Certainly, as the data reveal, economic and racial disparities make the situation more difficult to confront. Yet, it must be addressed so that all deaths can be reduced….in all areas.
Time to step back, call for a truce among all parties, and begin a dialogue that seeks to make life in the US sane and tolerable for all.