American Gun Violence Deaths Hit 40,000

Gun violence deaths in American this year have just passed 40,000. The total for all of 2019 was 39,521.

The carefully followed Gun Violence Archive keeps track of every gun violence death in America. Each incident has an associated cause, and those causes number over 100. The incidents are often linked to an exact address. The organization’s system uses automated research but also manually combs as many as 7,500 sources. The Gun Violence Archive was founded in 2013.

Gun violence deaths are divided into two fundamental categories. The larger category in terms of deaths is suicide. So far this year, these total 22,374. Evidence suggests suicides in America have increased during the pandemic. The Gun Violence Archive relies on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data for its suicide number, so it is too early to use its resources to prove the belief there has been a sharp rise in 2020.

The second category is more complex. Homicide, murder, unintentional gun deaths and defensive gun use are grouped together and total 17,626 so far this year, while unintentional shootings number 2,065. Defensive gun use is part of a larger category of “self-protection” with the use of a weapon, and unintentional shootings are also known as “accidental shootings.”

The difference between murder and homicide is a legal one. Murder is defined as intentional killing. Homicide is a broader category. It occurs when one person kills another.

The Gun Violence Archive counts 1,188 “officer-involved” incidents so far this year. These are defined as “the discharge of a firearm, which may include accidental and intentional discharges, by a police officer, whether on or off duty.” A total of 56 police officers have been killed by guns so far this year.

The last major category is mass shootings, which are defined as “4 or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.” There have been 588 such shootings this year.

Among the most notable findings of shooting deaths is the extent to which young people are killed. Over the past five years, gun deaths or injuries of children 11 or younger have averaged about 700 a year. Gun deaths or injuries of those ages 12 to 17 have averaged nearly 3,000.

Already, gun deaths for 2020 have topped those of 2019. With nearly a month left in the year, the question is how large the margin will be.