The U.S. murder rate is at its highest level in nearly two and half decades. A total of 21,570 murders were committed nationwide in 2020, up nearly 30% from the previous year — the largest annual increase on record.
The rash of deadly violence came during a tumultuous year in American history. The COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures and left millions of Americans out of work. The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer rattled confidence in American law enforcement and sparked nationwide protests. Firearms sales soared, resulting in the proliferation of tens of millions of new guns. Here is a look at the states where gun sales are surging.
Some experts speculate that each of these factors likely played a role in the rising homicide rate. While it may be years before the precise causal factors are identified, the effects are being felt in communities across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists homicide as a contributing factor in the historic 1.5 year decline in life expectancy in the U.S. last year — trailing only COVID-19 and accidental deaths, like drug overdoses, in significance.
Currently, the national murder rate stands at 6.5 homicides for every 100,000 people. At the state level, however, murder rates vary considerably. Using data from the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the most murders. States are ranked on their murder rate — or the number of reported murders for every 100,000 people in 2020.
The states with the lowest homicide rates tend to be concentrated in the Northeast, particularly in the New England region. Meanwhile, the states with the highest rates of deadly violence are disproportionately located in the South.
Despite the rise in homicide nationwide, murder is by far the least common form of violent crime — accounting for less than 2% of all criminal violence nationwide. Still, states with higher-than-average homicide rates typically have high overall violent crime rates as well.