For Release: Wednesday, June 24, 2020
95 Percent of Black Homicide Victims in Missouri were Killed with Guns
Washington, DC — For the fourth year in a row, Missouri has the highest black homicide victimization rate in the nation with a rate of 57.30 per 100,000 — nearly triple the national black homicide victimization rate and 11 times the overall homicide rate nationwide — according to a new analysis by the Violence Policy Center (VPC).
The annual study, Black Homicide Victimization in the United States: An Analysis of 2017 Homicide Data, ranks the states according to their black homicide victimization rates. It is based on unpublished data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). The study details homicide rates for 2017, the most recent year for which comprehensive national data is available. This is the 14th year the Violence Policy Center has released the study. To see past editions of the study, click here.
This is the 11th year in a row that Missouri has ranked either first or second in the nation for black homicide victimization. From 2014 to 2017, Missouri ranked first in the nation in black homicide victimization. During those four years, the state’s black homicide victimization rate increased by 64 percent: from 34.98 per 100,000 to 57.30 per 100,000. In addition, Missouri’s black homicide victimization rates in 2015, 2016, and 2017 are the three highest rates recorded in the 14-year history of the VPC study. Missouri’s 2017 rate of 57.30 is 55 percent higher than the highest rate recorded by any state other than Missouri in the 14-year history of this study.
“The disproportionate impact homicide — almost always involving a gun — has on black men, women, boys, and girls is a longstanding national shame that, outside of affected communities, has received neither the attention that it deserves nor the action that it demands,” states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “These deaths devastate families and friends while traumatizing communities. The goal of our research is to further educate the public and policymakers, help spur action, and aid leaders on the ground as well as those working on the state and national levels to end this crisis.”
In 2017, the national black homicide victimization rate was 20.42 per 100,000, and the overall national homicide victimization rate was 5.20 per 100,000. Nationwide, 87 percent of black homicide victims were killed with guns.
The 10 states with the highest black homicide victimization rates in 2017 are detailed in the table below.
For MISSOURI, the study finds that in 2017:
- Of the 414 black homicide victims, 366 were male and 48 were female.
- Twenty-four black homicide victims (6 percent) were less than 18 years old and 5 victims (1 percent) were 65 years of age or older. The average age was 31 years old.
- When the weapon used could be identified, 95 percent of the black homicide victims (380 out of 399) were killed with guns. Of these, 43 percent (165 victims) were killed with handguns.
- For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 78 percent of black homicide victims (95 out of 122) were killed by someone they knew. Twenty-seven were killed by strangers.
- For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 59 percent (84 out of 143) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 73 percent (61 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.
For the entire UNITED STATES, the study finds that in 2017:
- There were 7,809 black homicide victims in the United States that year. Blacks represented 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet accounted for 50 percent of all homicide victims.
- The black homicide victimization rate in the United States was 20.42 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall national homicide victimization rate was 5.20 per 100,000. For whites, the national homicide victimization rate was 3.06 per 100,000.
- Of the 7,809 black homicide victims, 6,839 were male, 969 were female, and one was of unknown sex. The homicide victimization rate for black male victims was 37.32 per 100,000. The homicide victimization rate for black female victims was 4.87 per 100,000.
- For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 87 percent of black victims (6,506 out of 7,491) were shot and killed with guns. Of these, 66 percent (4,314 victims) were killed with handguns.
- For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 76 percent of black victims (2,370 out of 3,116) were killed by someone they knew. The number of victims killed by strangers was 746.
- For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 68 percent (3,038 out of 4,444) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 48 percent (1,473 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.
In addition, individuals living in communities where violence is prevalent are at higher risk for a broad range of negative health and behavior outcomes. An increased understanding of how trauma resulting from community violence influences development, health, and behavior can lead to improvements in the way many social services are delivered as well as policy changes at the local and federal levels. For more information, see the July 2017 VPC study The Relationship Between Community Violence and Trauma: How Violence Affects Learning, Health, and Behavior.
The FBI data includes incidents reported as justifiable homicides of black victims killed by law enforcement. Nationwide, there were 120 such incidents reported in 2017. The data does not specifically identify killings by police that are not ruled justifiable. In December 2015, the FBI announced that it would dramatically expand its data collection on violent police encounters by 2017. In October 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice outlined a plan to improve the collection of law enforcement use of force data. No data has yet been released from the project.
The rate of black homicide victimization is calculated by dividing the number of black homicide victims by the black population and multiplying the result by 100,000. This is the standard and accepted method of comparing fatal levels of gun violence.
The full study is available at http://vpc.org/studies/blackhomicide20.pdf.
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on Twitter and Facebook.