THURSDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Large metropolitan areas
suffer about two-thirds of all firearm homicides in the United
States, with inner cities most affected, according to a new report
from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"The central cities really bear the burden of firearm homicides," said Linda L. Dahlberg, the associate director for science in CDC's Division of Violence Prevention, noting that the gun murder rate was highest among male children and teens.
These findings "speak to the importance of addressing youth if
we really want to do something about the gun violence problem,"
According to the CDC, 25,423 murders by gunfire took place in
the United States in 2006 through 2007 -- the years of the most
recent available statistics.
Among these deaths, the rate of firearm homicides was higher in
inner cities than in other parts of cities and higher than the
murder rate of the country as a whole, Dahlberg said. People living
in 50 of the largest cities, in fact, accounted for 67 percent of
all firearm homicides.
In addition, children and teens aged 10 to 19 in these areas --
more than 85 percent of them male -- accounted for 73 percent of
all firearm homicides in that age group, Dahlberg noted.
In the United States, "gun violence escalated in the late 1980s
and 1990s, fueled in part by the crack cocaine epidemic," Dahlberg
said. "Even though the rates have declined since 1994, the
proportion of youth homicides that are committed with firearms has
remained consistently high."
To reduce the carnage, the country needs to teach young people
ways to resolve conflicts without violence, according to the
The findings were published in the May 13 issue of CDC's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
For the study, researchers used data from the National Vital
Statistics System and the U.S. Census Bureau to calculate gun
murders in the 50 largest U.S. cities for 2006-2007.
The researchers found regional differences in the rates of
firearm homicides rates, which tended to be higher in cities in the
Midwest and South than in the Northeast and West.
Dahlberg noted that research shows that youth violence is
preventable -- with effort. "Programs that build skills in
resolving conflicts without resorting to violence have resulted in
reductions in youth violence," she said.
Parenting and mentoring programs can also have a strong impact.
So can community-wide programs that focus on neighborhoods trying
to change the physical and social environment, Dahlberg added.
"Neighborhood interventions have resulted in significant reductions
in crime and violence," she said.
There are also programs like "Cease Fire" that focus on
preventing shooting and try to work with many people in the
community, including hospitals and community outreach groups, to
help defuse violence and "change the community norms around
violence," Dahlberg said.
The report also included information on gun suicides -- which,
unlike murders, are least common in cities.
Cities accounted for only 39 percent of firearm suicides,
Dahlberg pointed out. "Gun suicides were lower in urban areas than
in the nation overall," she said. "And, the central cities had
rates below other metropolitan areas."
Daniel Webster, professor and co-director of the Johns Hopkins
Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, isn't surprised
that most firearm murders occur in inner cities.
"One of the strongest correlates for homicide is 'concentrated disadvantaged,' where everyone living in an area is poor and unemployed," he said. "There are a lot of sociological factors at play here that make some urban communities at high risk for youth and gun violence," he explained.
Webster's strategy for reducing gun murders by teens is making
guns harder to get. That means cracking down on people who sell
guns, especially those who sell guns to teens.
In addition, police can crack down on people who illegally carry
guns, particularly in inner cities. "Special units -- whose
principal task is to identify individuals who illegally carry guns
and arrest them and get the guns off the streets -- appear to work
to reduce gun violence," Webster said.
Also, community programs like "Cease Fire" can have a
significant effect in reducing gun violence, he added.
Gary Kleck, the David J. Bordua Professor of Criminology at
Florida State University in Tallahassee, has another take on how to
reduce inner-city gun violence.
The evidence suggests that better gun control doesn't
necessarily reduce violence, but a broad-based approach tends to
reduce homicide in general, he said.
For one thing, "locking up more criminals reduces violence; it's
not gun specific," he said. There are treatment programs that can
help, he added. "They basically teach offenders how to think
differently when [they] face a violent situation," Kleck said.
In addition, job training can help in getting people not to
commit crimes or violence, Kleck said.
For more information on gun violence, visit the
U.S. National Institute of Justice.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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