TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — From the beginning of 2020 to the beginning of 2021, while COVID-19 deaths rose, so too did the number of teenagers dying to firearm injuries. Across the country, the overall death rate due to firearm injuries for children aged 5-years-old to 14 nearly doubled.
In the first quarter of 2020, the per capita death rate for those 5 to 14 was 1.0. Per capita is per 100,000 people. In the first quarter of 2021, that number rose to 1.8, nationally, according to mortality data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For Florida kids, the number was already higher in 2020 than the rest of the country. The CDC data shows it also went up in 2021. The crude data rate for the nation was 12.3 per 100,000 for 2020. In Florida, it was 13.5. Nationally and in just Florida, both stats went up in the following year.
In 2021, the crude rate of firearm deaths for those 5 to 14-years-old was 14.1. The rate was the same in Florida. Nationally, the numbers increased faster, growing to match Florida’s firearm-related deaths.
Broken down by gender, the majority of the deaths were among boys, where more than six times more boys died to gun violence in 2020 and 2021, compared to girls in the same age groups across the United States.
The University of California, Los Angeles analyzed gun sales statistics during the pandemic. They describe the increase in gun purchases in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic started, as a “surge.” The UCLA analysis focused on understanding gun violence in a different lens, as a contagion rather than simply looking at the violence in a purely numerical style.
The analysis describes the “crime contagion and gun violence” as caused by a repeating pattern, where violence causes more violence. The surge of gun buying is displayed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s report on background checks for firearm purchases. FBI data showed 76.7% of murders in the U.S. were committed with firearms in 2020.
Writ large across the U.S., the FBI reported a record number of background checks to buy guns the week of March 15 to March 21, 2021. It was the busiest week since 1998, according to their report. March 17, 2021 was the single busiest day for background checks to buy a firearm, where more than 250,000 checks were performed.
The increase in guns in circulation came at the same time as an increase in homicides across the U.S. That said, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. There were 16,669 homicides in 2019 and 21,570 in 2020, a nearly 30% increase. In 2020, there were 1,530 homicides in Florida alone, according to the CDC, or just over 7% of the U.S. total. Only Texas and California had more homicides per state, at 2,212 and 2,368 respectively.
FBI data showed 76.7% of murders in the U.S. were committed with firearms in 2020.
Using preliminary data from 22 cities, the Council on Criminal Justice estimates homicides rose another 5% in 2021. Data from the FBI for the 2021 homicide totals has not yet been released.