TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — When it comes to homicides, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the use of guns as a tool of violent death rose 35% in the lead up to the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2019 to 2020, firearm homicides increased, while firearm suicides remained high.

The CDC’s Vital Signs report showed guns were used in 79% of all homicides and 53% of all suicides in 2020. The agency said it’s increased the firearm homicide rate to a level higher than decades-past.

“Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a historic increase of 35% in the firearm homicide rate, resulting in the highest firearm homicide rate in more than 25 years,” the CDC reported.

In 2020, the CDC said firearm homicides increased across all ages and demographic, but concentrated most in those aged 10 to 44 years old. Most victims were male, adolescent or young adult, and Black or American Indian and Alaska Native.

“The overall firearm suicide rate remained nearly level between 2019 and 2020, with age-specific rate increases among persons 10–44 years old, partially offset by a decrease among those 45–64 years old,” the report said. “Considering age, sex, and race/ethnicity simultaneously, rates of firearm suicide increased most notably among non-Hispanic AI/AN males aged 10–44.”

Still, the number of firearm homicides with female victims also increased, according to the CDC. Location was not a factor either, with rates of firearm homicide increasing in large and small metro areas, as well as non-metro and rural areas. One factor that did affect the firearm homicide numbers was poverty.

“Rates” of firearm homicide “were higher and showed larger increases in counties with higher poverty levels,” the CDC said. Also, firearm suicide “rates were highest at the highest poverty level and lowest at the lowest poverty level.”

Based on the CDC data, those living in poverty were more likely to kill with a gun, or kill themselves with a gun. The agency said “long-standing systemic inequities and structural racism may contribute to unfair and avoidable health disparities among some racial and ethnic groups.”

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H. said the issue was “tragic” as the firearm homicide rate increased at a “historic level.”

“The persistently high rates of firearm suicide underscore the urgent need for action to reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths,” Walensky said. “By addressing factors contributing to homicide and suicide and providing support to communities, we can help stop violence now and in the future.”

Based on the data, the CDC said the “majority” of homicides and suicides in the U.S. from 2020 used a firearm. The agency said the firearm homicide rate was the highest it’s been since 1994.

If you or someone you love is battling depression or thoughts of suicide, help is always available by calling the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay at 211 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).