Racial justice


Racial justice

Gun violence is a racial justice issue that disproportionately impacts Black people. Yet, the systemic factors driving inequality and gun violence in communities most impacted, are knowingly and willingly disregarded by elected leaders. This Black History Month, as we look back on the history of Black America, we must recognize how Black people have been and continue to be marginalized in this country and vow to implement comprehensive strategies to protect Black lives and well-being.

Since 2020, gun violence has been the leading cause of death among all children and teens in the United States, yet it goes largely undiscussed that gun violence has been the leading cause of death among Black children since 2006.


To measure the disproportionate impact of gun violence on Black Americans of all ethnicities, we utilized firearm mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System and fatal police shooting data from the Washington Post’s Police Shootings Database.

In our analysis, we evaluate both the disproportionate share of Black firearm homicide and police firearm-related violence victims compared to their share in the overall U.S. population and the rate increases of Black firearm homicide and suicide victims over the past five years (2017-2021) of available data.


Despite accounting for only 14% of the U.S. population, Black people account for 60% of those killed by firearm homicide each year. On average, Black people are over 11.5 times more likely to be victims of firearm homicide than their non-Hispanic white peers.

Among young Black people, the disparities are even higher. Black children (aged 0-17) are over 13.6 times more likely to die by firearm homicide than their non-Hispanic white peers. However, this disparity is largest among young, Black people (aged 18-24), who are 19 times more likely to die by firearm homicide than white people (aged 18-24).

Young Black males (aged 18-24) are nearly 23 times more likely to die by firearm homicide than their white male peers. Black males under the age of 18 are 14.5 times more likely to die by firearm homicide than their white male peers. While Black females continue to be more likely to die by firearm homicide than their white peers, the likelihood of such is far lower than for Black males.

Young Black females (aged 18-24) are 8 times more likely to die by firearm homicide than young white females (aged 18-24). However, young Black females are over 8.5 times less likely to die by firearm homicide than young Black males. Additionally, Black female youth under the age of 18 are nearly 7.5 times more likely to die by firearm homicide than their white peers. Meanwhile, Black female youth under the age of 18 are over 5.5 times less likely to die by firearm homicide than Black male youth under the age of 18.

Over the past five years, firearm homicide mortality rates have grown most significantly among Black youth.

Over the past five years, there has been a 97.67% increase in firearm homicide among Black youth, a 92.16% increase among Black male youth, and a 134.13% increase among Black female youth.

Across all age groups, from 2017-2021, the largest increases in firearm homicide rates were seen among Black females.

In 2021, it was reported that the number of Black women purchasing firearms increased by 87% – making Black women the fastest-growing population of gun owners. This uptick in Black female gun ownership coincided with an overall surge in firearm purchasing during the COVID-19 pandemic and is significant because research shows that access to firearms is associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide.


The same cities that experience disproportionate gun homicide — Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Newark, St. Louis, and Chicago — all have large, segregated Black communities with histories of disinvestment. This segregation and disinvestment didn’t happen by accident.

Through discriminatory housing practices, white flight, and deindustrialization, Black families have been and continue to be pushed into poverty. This push has continued the economic inequality between white and Black people all across the country.

Today, approximately 70% of Black people living in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods are the descendants of the same families who lived there in the 1960s. As such, across generations, these communities have had less access to resources and economic opportunity compared to more affluent neighborhoods.

To address the rapid increases in firearm homicide mortality among Black Americans, we must first address the racist laws and institutions that perpetuate inequality. Although white people in the U.S. are more likely to die by firearm suicide compared to Black people, the rate increase of firearm suicide among Black Americans is growing at a much faster pace than among white Americans.

While firearm suicide rates have increased by 6.3% over the past five years among non-Hispanic white people, the firearm suicide rate among Black people has increased by 50.8%. Similarly to firearm homicide, this disparity in growth is even larger among Black children, who have experienced a 78.9% increase in firearm suicide rates over the past five years compared to only a 5.1% increase among non-Hispanic white children.

While the growth of firearm suicide among white people is primarily an increase among males, firearm suicide among Black people is primarily increasing among females.

As seen in Figure 8, the growth of firearm suicide rates among Black women and girls is far outpacing the increases among Black men and boys seen in Figure 7. Similar to firearm homicide, this may be related to the firearm purchasing surge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Easy access to firearms increases the chance of firearm suicide by three-fold. As such, the increase in gun ownership among Black women may contribute to the rising rates of firearm suicide among their demographic group.

Black Americans are killed by police at a rate 2.7 times higher than white Americans.

Despite accounting for only 13.6% of the U.S. population, Black people account for 27% of those shot and killed by police since 2015.

While 5% of white people shot and killed by police are unarmed, nearly 8% of Black people shot and killed by police are unarmed. This indicates that Black people are inherently viewed as more dangerous – which we know is based upon hundreds of years of bias that wrongly posits Black people as a threat.

Research shows that years of media portraying Black people as aggressive and dangerous have perpetuated deep-seated racist stereotypes in our country. As such, police officers may react based on these portrayals of Black people, which leads to unnecessary and unjustified police violence and killings instead of providing the care and support of social service professionals.

Our gun-saturated country often forces officers to make split-second decisions; our race-saturated history and the policies and structures that have been developed as a result, often puts Black Americans on the wrong end of them.

For that reason, racial justice requires not only reasonable firearm regulations that make everyone safer but also community-oriented policing and community-based violence prevention programs proven to reduce gun violence.

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Black Community Leaders Are Working to Create Program to Prevent the Violence that Has Plagued Their Communities

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Community Violence Intervention (CVI) programs are proven to be effective at reducing rates of gun violence. They are evidence-based, public health initiatives that work with and within communities — especially systematically underserved and under-resourced Black and Brown communities — to address the root causes of conflict and trauma. These include hospital-based interventions, in-and after-school programs, violence interruption, and other efforts.

These programs are proven to reduce violence. For example, after New York City implemented two Cure Violence programs in the Bronx and in Brooklyn, each borough saw a 37% and 50% reduction in gun-related injuries respectively. Similarly, after two years of implementation in Philadelphia, CeaseFire was effective in reducing the rate of shootings by 30%.

This Black History Month, we celebrate the work of all Black-led programs and organizations working to end gun violence. Among these leaders are numerous Brady advocates, including Oronde McClain, Mattie Scott, and Wayne Richardson.

At the age of 10, Oronde McClain was shot in the head in Philadelphia. He was effectively dead for two minutes and 17 seconds. It took him 12 years to recover from his physical injuries. Today, he is a survivor, activist, husband, father of five, and author of “PTSD Won’t Define Me.” His activism began as a book bag drive at a local Philadelphia school, but has progressed into the McClain Foundation. The McClain Foundation works to improve the quality of life for victims of gun violence. Through peaceful protests and hosting community-centered events, McClain is working to give back to his community and help those with experiences with gun violence. Learn more about Oronde’s activism.

On July 17, 1996, Mattie Scott’s son George C. Scott was shot and killed at the age of 24 while attending a graduation party in their San Francisco neighborhood. He left behind his two sons: Gabriel and Kyron. In 2007, Mattie’s nephew Timothy Scott was shot and killed at 23. In the same year, Mattie’s niece, Kiesha Walker, died by firearm suicide stemming from bullying on social media. Since then, Mattie founded Healing 4 Our Families & Our Nation, became the San Francisco Chapter Leader of Mothers-in-Charge, and became the San Francisco Brady California State President. The vast majority of Mattie’s work focuses on outreach with the currently and formerly incarcerated. Learn more about Mattie’s activism.

At just 25 years old, Wayne Richardson and his wife Judi’s daughter Darien was shot several times in her bed during a home invasion in Portland, ME. She was transported to an area hospital and later died due to her gunshot wounds. Although the firearm used in the crime was found only a month later, Darien’s homicide remains unsolved. In the following years, Wayne and Judi established Remembering Darien to help victims of violent crimes heal and rebuild their lives by raising money to address the financial and emotional burdens that come from finding justice and peace in the aftermath of violent crimes. Learn more about Darien’s story.

Gun violence disproportionately impacts Black people because of the deep-rooted inequalities in our nation. Black people are not inherently more dangerous. Rather, gun violence disparities result from structural and economic issues that impact predominantly Black communities more than predominantly white communities.

Over 45% of Black Americans believe gun violence is an important issue impacting their neighborhood, compared to only 27% of white Americans. 

The disinvestment and segregation in predominantly Black communities is intentional. Throughout our nation’s history, discriminatory housing practices, white flight, and deindustrialization pushed Black people into poverty – exacerbating economic inequality between white and Black people. Today, Black people feel the repercussions of these racially biased policies. Black people – especially young, Black males – are victims of firearm homicide at rates that far exceed their peers and Black people are more likely to be shot and killed by police.

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