Gun Violence in Hispanic & Latino Communities
Over the past few years, there have been a number of tragic, high-profile incidents of gun violence in the Hispanic and Latino community.
Most recently, in the town of Uvalde, Texas—where four in five residents are Latino1—38 people were shot at Robb Elementary School.2 Nineteen children and two teachers died in the shooting.3 In 2019, a shooter killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, claiming that he intended to target Mexicans.4
Alex Nguyen—Sep 09, 2022
These atrocities made headlines across the nation and shocked our collective consciousness, but much less discussed is the regular, unrelenting toll that gun violence takes on Hispanic and Latino communities. On average, 11 Hispanic people die from gun violence every day.5 Almost half of all Latino youth in major US cities live less than a mile away from a gun homicide that occurred in the past year.6 And gun violence in the Hispanic community has been on the rise, increasing 66% since 2014.7
Understanding the scope of this alarmingly growing problem is critical to illustrate the devastating extent of gun violence in the Hispanic and Latino community. This community bears a disproportionate toll of this epidemic compared to other demographic groups in this country, and understanding this burden is essential to creating and implementing responsive solutions.
Hispanic and Latino
Nearly one in every five people living in the US are Hispanic or Latino, making this community the second largest racial/ethnic group in the country.8 Hispanic and Latino communities include people from various countries of origins and ethnic backgrounds including two dozen countries from Central and South America.9
The terms Hispanic and Latino are often used interchangeably to describe this group, though these terms technically have different meanings. Latino refers to people of Latin American origin, while Hispanic refers to people of Spanish-speaking origin.10 According to national polling, members of this group generally refer to themselves as Hispanic, with more than twice as many respondents stating a preference for using “Hispanic” over “Latino.”11 Latinx, a gender neutral term used in place of Latino, is used by just three percent of Hispanic and Latinos; more than three-quarters of Hispanic and Latinos have not heard of this term.12
This memo relies on mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which categorizes race and ethnicity separately. The CDC data is the most complete source of information on firearm mortality; however, limitations in this data may mask important differences in Hispanic and Latino subgroups. For example, this data does not provide breakdowns of specific Hispanic ethnic groups that may face different risks for gun violence.13
Since the CDC routinely uses the term “Hispanic” to describe trends in mortality, this memo will use “Hispanic” when referring to data from the CDC.14 In other instances, such as when referring to the broader community, we will also include the term “Latino.”15
Trends in Gun Violence
Gun violence kills 4,100 Hispanic people in the US every year.16 However, in 2020, a record 5,003 Hispanic people died from gun violence.17 The Latino community, particularly Latino youth, has been disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Gun deaths among Hispanic people have increased at nearly twice the rate of gun deaths nationally. From 2014 to 2020, the number of Hispanic gun deaths rose 66%; comparatively, national gun deaths rose 34%.18
Firearm homicides account for almost 60% of all Hispanic gun deaths.19 Firearm homicide deaths take a disproportionate toll on Hispanic Americans compared to many other racial and ethnic groups. In fact, the Hispanic firearm homicide rate is more than double the non-Hispanic white firearm homicide rate.20
Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of Hispanics and Latinos live in only nine states, leading to a disparate geographic concentration of Hispanic gun deaths.21 For example, in New Mexico, 62% of gun homicide victims are Hispanic, despite this group comprising just half of the state’s population.22 Comparatively, non-Hispanic white residents of New Mexico make up only 38% of the population and only 21% of gun homicides.23 Similarly in California, 48% of all gun homicide victims are Hispanic, despite this group only accounting for 40% of the state’s population.24 Contrastingly, non-Hispanic white residents make up a similar percentage of the population (38%) but a smaller proportion of gun homicide victims (16%).25
Aug 31, 2022
Young Latino men experience some of the highest rates of gun violence. Gun violence is the leading cause of death for Hispanic male youth ages 15 to 19 and the third leading cause of death for Hispanic male adults ages 20 to 44.26 Unfortunately, the Latino and Hispanic communities have disproportionately borne the impact of our country’s gun violence epidemic for decades. In fact, gun homicides have been the second leading cause of death for Hispanic males ages 15 to 34 for over 20 years.27
Currently, the firearm homicide rate for Hispanic male youth ages 15 to 19 is four times higher than the non-Hispanic white youth of the same age.28 Exposure to high rates of gun violence is associated with a host of negative mental health outcomes, including psychological distress, depression, and suicidal ideation in Black and Latino youth.29
The Latino community also experiences disproportionately high rates of fatal police shootings.30 On average, law enforcement shoots and kills 200 Hispanic people each year.31 Just as with firearm homicides, Hispanic people die from fatal police shootings at rates 1.4 times more than non-Hispanic whites.32 In fact, in New Mexico, where almost half of all residents are Hispanic, police shoot and kill Hispanic people at a rate more than double that of their non-Hispanic white counterparts.33 Similarly, in California, which also has a high Hispanic population, Hispanic people die from fatal police shootings at 1.6 times the rate of non-Hispanic whites in the state.34
Hispanic and Latino communities disproportionately suffer the consequences of our nation’s gun violence epidemic every day. But collectively, this group is raising its voice and demanding action. Currently, Latino voters list gun violence as their second most important issue,35 and 65% of Hispanic adults support stronger gun laws that would help keep their communities safe.36
Fortunately, there are a number of policy solutions that would protect Latinos from gun violence, including universal background checks, extreme risk laws, and funding for community violence intervention strategies. These communities are in the throes of our nation’s gun violence crisis, and we can’t wait any longer to implement these lifesaving solutions.
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- US Census Bureau, “P2 HISPANIC OR LATNO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE,” Decennial Census, 2020, https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=Uvalde%20city,%20Texas&t=Race%20and%20Ethnicity.
- Jaclyn Diaz, “What we know so far about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas,” NPR, May 25, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/05/25/1101071658/what-we-know-about-uvalde-shooting.
- Julio Cesar-Chavez, “Accused El Paso Mass Shooter Charged with 90 Counts of Federal Hate Crimes,” Reuters, February 6, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-texas-shooting-idUSKBN2002PK.
- From 2016 to 2020, an average of 4,147 Hispanic Americans died from gun violence each year— roughly 11 gun deaths every day. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2020,” last accessed August 23, 2022, https://wonder.cdc.gov/.
- 48.6% of Latinx youth lived within 1300 meters (or approximately 0.8 miles) from a gun homicide within the past year. Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz et al., “Inequities in Community Exposure to Deadly Gun Violence by Race/Ethnicity, Poverty, and Neighborhood Disadvantage among youth in Large US Cities,” Journal of Urban Health 99, (2022): 610–625.
- From 2014 to 2020, the number of Hispanic gun deaths rose from 3,010 to 5,003. Nationally, the number of total gun deaths rose from 33,594 to 45,222 during the same period. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2020,” last accessed August 23, 2022, https://wonder.cdc.gov/.
- Based on calculations made by Giffords Law Center. See US Census Bureau, “P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE,” Decennial Census, 2020, https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?t=Hispanic%20or%20Latino&g=0100000US&y=2020&tid=DECENNIALPL2020.P2.
- Mark Hugo Lopez et al., “Who is Hispanic?,” Pew Research Center, September 23, 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/09/23/who-is-hispanic/.
- Antonio Campos, “What’s the Difference Between Hispanic, Latino and Latinx?,” University of California, October 6, 2021, https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/choosing-the-right-word-hispanic-latino-and-latinx.
- Luis Noe-Bustamante et al., “About One-in-Four U.S. Hispanics Have Heard of Latinx, but Just 3% Use It,” Pew Research Center, August 11, 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2020/08/11/about-one-in-four-u-s-hispanics-have-heard-of-latinx-but-just-3-use-it/.
- Other mortality outcomes, such as cancer, see disparities by Hispanic subgroups, but data to analyze disparities among firearm deaths are not available. See Dinorah Martinez Tyson et al., “Unpacking Hispanic Ethnicity—Cancer Mortality Differentials Among Hispanic Subgroups in the United States, 2004-2014,” Frontiers in Public Health, (2018), https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00219.
- See e.g., Scott R. Kegler et al., “Vital Signs: Changes in Firearm Homicide and Suicide Rates — United States, 2019 – 2020,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports 71, no. 19 (2022): 656–663, http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7119e1; “QuickStats: Age-Adjusted Rates of Firearm-Related Homicide, by Race, Hispanic Origin, and Sex — National Vital Statistics System, United States, 2019,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports 70, no. 42 (2021):1491, http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7042a6; Benedict I. Truman et al., “Provisional COVID-19 Age-Adjusted Death Rates, by Race and Ethnicity — United States, 2020–2021,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports 71, no. 17 (2022): 601–605, http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7117e2.
- Many national organizations and research centers use the term Latino to refer to the community at large. For example groups like Latino Victory, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), Latino Public Broadcasting, the Latino Politics & Policy Institute, and others.
- Based on an average of the five most recent years of available data: 2016 to 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2020,” last accessed August 23, 2022, https://wonder.cdc.gov/.
- The CDC has published mortality data since the late 1960s, but data by Hispanic origin has only been available since 1990. Id.
- From 2014 to 2020, the number of Hispanic gun deaths rose from 3,010 to 5,003. Nationally, the number of total gun deaths rose from 33,594 to 45,222 during the same period. Id.
- Fifty-eight percent of Hispanic gun deaths are gun homicides, 37% are gun suicides, and roughly five percent of gun deaths are from unintentional shootings and from undetermined intent. Id.
- From 2016 to 2020, the age-adjusted Hispanic firearm homicide rate was 3.81 per 100,000. Comparatively the non-Hispanic White firearm homicide rate during the same period was 1.83 per 100,000. Id.
- The nine states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Texas. See Jeffrey S. Passel et al., “U.S. Hispanic Population Continued its Geographic Spread in the 2010s,” Pew Research Center, February 3, 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/02/03/u-s-hispanic-population-continued-its-geographic-spread-in-the-2010s/.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2020,” last accessed January 3, 2022, https://wonder.cdc.gov/.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), “Leading Causes of Death Reports, 1981 – 2020,” last accessed August 22, 2022, www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars.
- Shani Buggs, “Community-Based Violence Interruption & Public Safety,” Arnold Ventures, July 2022, https://craftmediabucket.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/AVCJIReport_Community-BasedViolenceInterruptionPublicSafety_Buggs_v2.pdf.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), “Underlying Cause of Death, 1999–2020,” last accessed August 22, 2022, https://wonder.cdc.gov/.
- Melissa E. Smith et al., “The Impact of Exposure to Gun Violence Fatality on Mental Health Outcomes in Four Urban U.S. Settings,” Social Science & Medicine 246, (2020), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2019.112587.
- Silvia Foster-Frau, “Latinos are Disproportionately killed by police but often left out of the debate about brutality, some advocates say,” Washington Post, June 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/police-killings-latinos/2021/05/31/657bb7be-b4d4-11eb-a980-a60af976ed44_story.html.
- Based on calculations made by Giffords Law Center. See Mapping Police Violence, “National Trends,” last accessed August 22, 2022, https://mappingpoliceviolence.squarespace.com/.
- From 2017 to 2020, the fatal police shooting rate for Hispanic Americans was 3.28 per 100,000. During the same period, the fatal police shooting rate for non-Hispanic White Americans was 2.34 per 100,000. Based on calculations made by Giffords Law Center. Mapping Police Violence, “National Trends,” Accessed August 22, 2022, https://mappingpoliceviolence.squarespace.com/; US Census Bureau, “B02001 RACE” ACS 5-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, 2017-2020, https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=race&g=0100000US.
- From 2017 to 2020 in New Mexico, the fatal police shooting rate for Hispanic Americans was 13.3 per 100,000. During the same period, the fatal police shooting rate for non-Hispanic White Americans was 5.86 per 100,000. Based on calculations made by Giffords Law Center. Id
- From 2017 to 2020 in California, the fatal police shooting rate for Hispanic Americans was 4.22 per 100,000. During the same period, the fatal police shooting rate for non-Hispanic White Americans was 2.65 per 100,000. Based on calculations made by Giffords Law Center. Id.
- “UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota National Survey of Latino Voters,” UnidosUS, August 10, 2022, https://www.unidosus.org/publications/unidosus-and-mi-familia-vota-national-survey-of-latino-voters/.
- Additionally, polling done by Giffords in partnership with the Latino Victory Project shows that in Texas three out of four Latinos believe gun laws should be stronger than they are now. “NEW POLL: Giffords & Latino Victory Project Find Latinx Voters in Texas Strongly Support Gun Safety Laws and Want Candidates To Make The Issue a Priority,” Giffords, August 5, 2020, https://giffords.org/press-release/2020/08/texas-latinos-poll-2020/; Pew Research Center, “Amid a Series of Mass Shootings in the U.S., Gun Policy Remains Deeply Divisive,” April 20, 2021, https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/04/20/amid-a-series-of-mass-shootings-in-the-u-s–gun-policy-remains-deeply-divisive/?utm_content=buffer67f13&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.