Here's a very unfortunate title for Missouri -- and it's one the state is officially holding on to for the third year in a row: No. 1 in "black homicide victimization." So says the Washington D.C-based research group Violence Policy Center, which released results this week of an annual study of homicide rates across the country.
What does it mean? The organization found that Missouri has the highest rate of black individuals falling victim to homicide at 33.86 deaths per 100,000 people.
"It's a shameful legacy," Josh Sugarmann, executive director, tells Daily RFT of these trends.
What's behind the devastating pattern?
Guns, Sugarmann tells us.
"The disproportionate effect of gun violence on African Americans in the United States is not a new story. We've seen it for decades," he says. "The fact that it is still ignored and not being addressed in a substantive and comprehensive way is really a national shame."
Here are the top ten states.
The study found that in 2010, which is the most recent data available from Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 255 black homicide victims in Missouri -- 231 male and 24 female.
For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 91 percent of black victims were killed by guns. And of those, 58 percent -- 128 victims -- were killed with handguns. There were fourteen victims killed with knives.
In the cases where there was information about the offender's relationship to the victim, 56 out of 79 were murdered by someone they knew; that means that at least 23 of these victims were killed by strangers.
Across the country, the vast majority of deaths were tied to gun violence with 83 percent shot and killed with firearms, primarily handguns -- a rate slightly lower than that of Missouri.
For perspective, Missouri's black homicide victimization rate is more than seven times the national overall homicide rate of 4.42 people per 100,000.
"This is a long ignored public-health crisis that is devastating black teens and adults and their families and communities where they live," says Sugarmann.
Continue for more of our interview with Josh Sugarmann and a copy of the full report.
Sugarmann notes that even though Missouri has been No. 1 for the last three years, the rates have declined slightly -- a trend across the board.
While the Violence Policy Center does not do advocacy work on a state level, Sugarmann says the goal of the study is that it makes government officials in each state aware of the seriousness of the gun violence crisis.
"When we put this data out there, a lot of states are surprised," he says. "Hopefully they move beyond surprise to [action]."
He adds, "The first step to addressing the problem is to admit there is a problem."
Here's the report.
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