Lewis Diuguid

Lewis Diuguid: Black homicide rate in Missouri, U.S. should be a call to action for everyone to value people more and reduce gun violence

Guns are responsible for the many homicides in a study of the black homicide victimization rate, a Violence Policy Center analysis notes.
Guns are responsible for the many homicides in a study of the black homicide victimization rate, a Violence Policy Center analysis notes. .

Everyone in Missouri should be embarrassed over the Violence Policy Center’s latest analysis showing the state with the second highest black homicide victimization rate in the country.

The analysis released this week found that Missouri has a black homicide rate of 30.42 per 100,000. That’s almost twice the national black homicide victimization rate and many times greater than the national rate for the population overall. Missouri’s black homicide rate is second only Indiana with a 34.15 black homicide victimization rate per 100,000. The report is an analysis of 2013 data.

The study calculates the black homicide victimization rate by dividing the number of African American homicide victims by the black population and multiplying the result by 100,000. The Violence Policy Center is a national nonprofit educational organization with a mission of stopping gun death and injury.

“The devastation homicide inflicts on black teens and adults is a national crisis, yet it is all too often ignored outside of affected communities,” the report says. The ongoing tragedy “should be a top priority for policymakers to address.”

“An important part of ending our nation’s gun violence epidemic will involve reducing homicides in the African-American community,” the study notes.

Third behind Missouri was Michigan with a 30.34 black homicide victimization rate per 100,000, followed by Nebraska, 27.65; Oklahoma, 27.36; Pennsylvania, 26.11; Wisconsin, 24.74; Louisiana, 23.33; California, 21.79 and New Jersey, 20.49.

Of the 216 black homicide victims in Missouri in 2013, 188 were male, and 28 were female.

Sixteen of the black homicide victims, or 7 percent, were under age 18, and two of the victims, or 1 percent, were age 65 or older. The average age was 30.

When the weapon used could be identified, 88 percent of the black homicide victims, or 182 out of 207, were killed with guns; 45 percent, or 82 victims, were fatally wounded with handguns.

The report also noted that of the homicides in which the victim-to-offender relationship could be identified, 83 percent of black homicide victims, or 54 out of 65, were killed by someone they knew. Eleven victims were killed by strangers.

In the study, Kansas ranked 13th in the nation with an 18.8 black homicide rate per 100,000.

For the U.S. the study notes that in 2013, there were 6,217 black homicide victims in the country. African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for 50 percent of all homicides. Most of the killings of blacks were done by other blacks.

Getting black lives to truly matter has to start with black people first. Of course, African Americans also need equal opportunities, better schools, good paying jobs, safer neighborhoods, better health care and healthy diets to reinforce a reason to live. And with that they need need for racism and discrimination to end. In addition, black people need to value nonviolent solutions over violence. They need to rely on mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. All of that would make the black victimization rate fall. It’s way too high now.

The black homicide victimization rate for the United States was 16.91 per 100,000 in 2013. That compares poorly to the overall national homicide victimization rate of 4.27 per 100,000. For white people alone, the national homicide victimization rate was 2.54 per 100,000.

Of the 6,217 black homicide victims, 5,381 were male, and 836 were female. The national homicide victimization rate for black male victims was 30.59 per 100,000. The rate for black female victims was 4.36 per 100,000.

Clearly the Black Lives Matter movement needs to focus more attention on African American males.

For homicides in which weapons used could be identified, 84 percent of black victims, or 4,960 out of 5,891, were shot and killed with guns. Of these, 73 percent, or 3,609 victims, were slain with handguns.

In homicides in which the victim-to-offender relationship could be identified, 72 percent of black victims, or 2,002 out of 2,766, were killed by someone they knew. Only 764 of the black homicide victims were killed by strangers.

For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 68 percent, or 2,534 out of 3,754, were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 51 percent, or 1,284 of the homicides, erupted from arguments between the victim and the offender.

The FBI data also notes that in 2013 there were 140 “justifiable homicides” of black victims killed by law enforcement. The FBI plans to greatly expand its data collection on violent police encounters by 2017.

“For black victims of homicide, like all victims of homicide, guns — usually handguns — are far and away the No. 1 murder tool,” the report says. “Successful efforts to reduce America’s black homicide toll, like America’s homicide toll as a whole, must put a focus on reducing access and exposure to firearms.”

Black communities themselves also have to stress a greater value on black lives, peace, reconciliation, mercy, forgiveness, nonviolent solutions, responsibility, accountability and atonement than has been the case in the past.