America's gun violence epidemic has a destructive impact on Hispanic communities. New research shows the murder rate for Hispanics is more than double the murder rate for whites, and more than two-thirds of Hispanic murder victims are killed with guns.
These eye-opening statistics can be found in a new study by my organization, the Violence Policy Center, which you can read here in English or in Spanish. The study also found that homicide is the second-leading cause of death for Hispanics ages 15 to 24.
What the study makes clear is that gun violence in the Hispanic community is a public health crisis, and elected officials need to respond to this crisis without delay. While no American is immune from the risks of gun violence, the sad fact is that this crisis has a disproportionate impact on people who identify as Hispanic. (Hispanics are not the only group that suffers disproportionately -- another report we released this year found that African Americans also face a greater likelihood of being murdered.)
Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we found that in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, the homicide victimization rate for Hispanics in the United States was 5.73 per 100,000. In comparison, the homicide victimization for whites was 2.52 per 100,000.
In total, more than 38,000 Hispanics were killed with guns between 1999 and 2010. That includes 26,349 homicides and 10,314 suicides.
Our study also found that guns are used in more than two-thirds of homicides with Hispanic victims. Separate data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Supplementary Homicide Report shows that in 2011, for homicides where the victim was Hispanic and a gun was used, 78 percent of the shootings involved a handgun.
Another disturbing fact is that a large percentage of Hispanic homicide victims are young. The FBI data shows that 41 percent of Hispanic homicide victims in 2011 were age 24 and younger. In comparison, 40 percent of black homicide victims and 22 percent of white homicide victims fell in that age group.
Hispanic victims are also more likely to be killed by a stranger than the national average. The latest FBI data from 2011 shows that when the victim-to-offender relationship could be identified, 39 percent of Hispanic homicide victims were killed by a stranger. Nationwide, 25 percent of all homicide victims were killed by strangers.
However, another important lesson from this study is we simply don't know enough about Hispanic victims of gun violence. That's because government agencies often report data on race but not ethnic origin. Because a limited amount of data exists, the total number of Hispanic victims is almost certainly higher than the reported numbers suggest.
As a result, we recommend that government agencies that collect data on death and injury should obtain complete information on the ethnic origin of individuals in addition to their race. Complete and accurate data collection on Hispanic victims of violence is necessary to not only understand the full scale of this crisis, but to begin addressing it.
Our report contains several other recommendations on how to improve data collection on lethal violence against Hispanics, including:
• Individual-level ethnic origin information should be captured by all governmental agencies, regardless of department, and at all levels -- local, state, and national -- for all pertinent users and subjects of agency services.
• Individual-level ethnic origin information should be self-reported and not based solely on a person's surname or other measure.
• All public access data and published reports issued by governmental agencies should include information on ethnic origin in addition to race.
• The U.S. Department of Justice -- specifically, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Justice Statistics -- should issue periodic or special reports on Hispanic victimization.
• States with a substantial proportion of Hispanic residents should issue periodic or special reports on Hispanic victimization and deaths due to all causes, including violence.
As public officials work to collect more data, we hope community leaders, local elected officials, and members of Congress will consider the facts in our report as they work toward solutions to this crisis. There is no excuse for any group of people to suffer disproportionately from the devastating effects of gun violence.
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