Overall crime in the United States has been declining since the early 1990s. But the same cannot be said for gun violence, which has seen a slight uptick in recent years. A new report from Boston University found that uptick has been led by an increase in homicides of young people — particularly of young black and Hispanic men.
Gun Violence Is A ‘Complicated Problem’
Researchers at Boston University, led by Dr. Bindu Kalesan, looked at national gun violence data from 1999 to 2016. From 1999 to 2014, gun violence rates stayed steady. But after 2014, there were increases in rates of both fatal and non-fatal firearm related injuries.
The research showed many differences in how gun violence affected communities. For example, the rates of suicide were high for white men, while black men were more likely to be victims of homicide.
Kalesan believes the problem of gun violence is a complicated one and can’t be solved with sweeping legislation.
She says it’s key we “understand the communities and provide interventions, which are specific for that community,” Kalesan said, “rather than passing some strange law like a bump stock ban.”
A Patchwork Of Laws
Kalesan found that even in states that had passed gun control legislation, mortality rates kept rising. She believes this is partially due to a lack of community resources but also because states across the country have different gun control laws.
“We need something at the national level — the federal level — which is very restrictive to be able to make anything effective in any state,” Kalesan said. “And we haven’t done that yet!”
Kalesan argues that a law like a universal background checks would address some of the problems that affect homicide rates and the trafficking of illegal guns. But without it, background checks in states don’t make much of a difference to homicide rates because guns can be trafficked from states with less restrictive gun laws into states with more restrictive laws.
Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.