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A Devastating Toll: 2021 CDC Data Shows Record Number of Gun Deaths, Makes Clear the Need for Continued Action to Address Gun Violence in America

CDC data suggests nearly 49,000 people died from gun violence

Washington DC — A new release of provisional data** from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that nearly 49,000 people were killed by guns in 2021. This figure shatters the previous record—set just last year—by more than 3,500 deaths. Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, applauds the bipartisan majorities in the US House and Senate who have recently responded to the public’s demand for a meaningful response to the escalating gun violence epidemic. But as this data demonstrates, the scale of our nation’s gun violence crisis demands additional action, including adopting universal background checks for gun sales. This data underscores the urgency of our nation’s gun violence crisis and the need for continued action to keep our communities safe.

“The data released by the CDC today shows that close to 49,000 lives were lost to gun violence last year. While that staggering number can feel hard to wrap our heads around, let’s be clear: these are 49,000 parents, grandparents, children, sisters, and brothers that were lost to a tragedy we know how to prevent. These are 49,000 people who won’t ever get to go back to school, see a movie, join services in a house of worship, or hug their children goodnight again—all because too many of our leaders refused to take action,” said Kelly Drane, research director at Giffords Law Center. “This is a crisis that has gotten far too out of control, and we know that there is still much more work to do to make this public health problem a priority and invest in solutions.”

Gun deaths in the US have been rising for several years, with smaller, steadier increases between 2014 and 2019 and large surges in gun deaths in 2020 and 2021. In fact, the gun death rate increased 15% from 2019 to 2020 and this new data suggests it rose an additional eight percent from 2020 to 2021. Fifteen thousand more Americans died from gun violence in 2021 compared to 2012, just one decade earlier. 

While the surge in gun deaths in 2020 was primarily driven by an increase in gun homicides, this data suggests that increases in gun violence in 2021 were driven by increases in both gun homicides and gun suicides. Provisional data shows roughly 1,500 more gun homicides in 2021 over 2020 and approximately 2,000 more gun suicides. Both of these increases are troubling. The provisional gun homicide data suggests nearly 6,500 additional deaths over counts from just two years prior, resulting in more than 20,000 deaths from gun homicides. The provisional gun suicide data suggest that 2021 saw the largest one year increase in gun suicide deaths on record. 

**The provisional counts described here are derived from death certificate data that CDC has received but not fully reviewed. This data provides an early estimate of gun deaths in 2021, but may be adjusted slightly over the coming months, until final data is released later this year. 


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