- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Spikes in the numbers of White men taking their own lives and Black men dying of gunshot injuries drove firearm deaths in the U.S. to a record high in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions said Tuesday their analysis of 45,222 U.S. gun deaths in 2020 showed that young Black men constituted more than half of 19,384 homicides, while White men represented 70% of the 24,292 firearm suicides.

“So we know that this is a racial justice issue, this is a health equity issue,” said study researcher Ari Davis, a senior policy analyst for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

“If we want to address racial health disparities, we should be addressing gun violence,” said Mr. Davis, who joined other authors of the study, titled “A Year in Review,” in a virtual briefing with reporters Tuesday.

The analysis, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, was made public Thursday.

The researchers said states with strong gun control laws like Hawaii had fewer gun deaths per capita than states with weak gun control laws like Mississippi.

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“Firearms are exceptionally lethal,” said injury epidemiologist Cassandra Crifasi, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Ms. Crifasi said the study’s seven co-authors recommend that states pass gun licensing laws, universal background checks and firearm-removal legislation to reduce the number of gun deaths — though she acknowledged the political challenges such policies would face. 

She said new gun restrictions need to be respectful of the constitutional right to bear arms.    

“We can’t just be telling people what they should be doing,” Ms. Crifasi said.

The Baltimore-based university was renamed in 2001 in honor of former New York mayor and high-profile gun-control advocate Michael R. Bloomberg, who has donated almost $3 billion to the school.

Second Amendment advocates reacted skeptically on Tuesday to the new call for more restrictions on gun rights.  

Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation trade association of gunmakers, said the Johns Hopkins center’s status as part of the Bloomberg School for Public Health betrays its bias.

“This is an institution funded by gun control billionaire Michael Bloomberg. There isn’t a gun control policy proposed that Michael Bloomberg hasn’t embraced,” Mr. Oliva told The Washington Times in an email.

Mr. Oliva said the Johns Hopkins report’s failure to distinguish between “the lawful use and criminal misuse of a firearm intentionally blurs the two separate categories to arrive at the proposed policy recommendations.”

He said the report also doesn’t adjust for the fact that firearm ownership grew with the number of gun deaths from the mid-1990s to 2020.

“FBI crime reports also indicate that while gun ownership was up, crime was down during that same period,” Mr. Oliva said.

In an email, the National Rifle Association told The Times that the report also glosses over the impact of progressive policies on young male shootings.

“The fact that communities choose to defund law enforcement, elect prosecutors who refuse to prosecute criminals, prematurely release dangerous prisoners, shut down schools, shut down workplaces, ban sports and outdoor activities, it is no surprise to see an uptick in youth violent crime,” the NRA said.

According to the Johns Hopkins analysis, an average of 124 people died from gun violence every day in 2020 — 15 more than in 2019.

“This increase was driven by a dramatic rise in gun homicides — nearly 5,000 more gun homicides than in 2019 — and persistently high numbers of gun suicides,” the report states.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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