It’s sad to say, but this has become routine. Too often an act of gun violence shakes our country to its core. Given the recent tragic events in Las Vegas (and before that in Charleston, San Bernardino, Aurora, Fort Hood, and more), gun control in the United States is once again a hot topic of debate.
Advocates for gun control will point to the litany of mass shootings in the United States every year. The Gun Violence Archive notes there have been almost 300 mass shootings with three months to go in 2017. Gun rights activists will point to the Constitutionally protected right to bear arms. And President Donald Trump will likely take to Twitter to register his disgust. The two sides will bicker for a while before the conversation eventually dies down, and the scenario will repeat itself the next time there is a horrific tragedy.
As terrible as mass shootings are, gun deaths in the form of homicide are not among the top 10 killers in the United States. Heart disease and cancer alone accounted for nearly half of all deaths in 2015, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall crime rates are trending down, but data from the Unified Crime Reports saw an uptick in both the number of murders and murders per 100,000 people in 2016. Some areas of the country have it worse than others when it comes to gun violence. Using Census population data and a preliminary analysis of 2017 crime statistics by the Brennan Center for Justice, we calculated the cities with the highest murder rates to help indicate where you are more likely to die from gun violence. The following are the 10 cities where you’re most likely to die from gun violence, including one that might be a bit of a surprise.
First things first
The number of murders and murder rates per capita take into account all forms of homicide. But the CDC estimates close to 70% of all homicides are gun homicides. So though not every homicidal death is chalked up to firearms, the majority are. The figures included don’t factor in gun-related suicides.
Some major cities you might expect to see are not on this list, including New York, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. They already have a sizable number of homicides in 2017, but the number of murders and murder rates per capita are down compared to 2016. And many of the cities on this list already have more murders than 2016, a higher number of murders per capita, or both.
Next: The first of several Southern cities on the list
10. Jacksonville, Florida
- Population, 2016: 880,619
- Murder rate, 2016: 11.8 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 116
Jacksonville is already above the 103 murders it saw in 2016, which has led to an increase in murders per capita. Jacksonville is counting 13 murders per capita so far in 2017, up 1.2 on from the 2016 total. If 70% of those homicides followed national trends and involved guns, that’s a little over 81 chalked up to firearms.
Next: Another city along the East Coast
- Population, 2016: 1,567,872
- Murder rate, 2016: 17.2 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 291
Jacksonville has a larger increase in murders per capita, but Philadelphia makes the list for its number of homicides. The City of Brotherly Love is already 20 murders ahead of its 2016 total at 18.4 murders per capita, an increase of 1.2 from 2016. If guns played a part in 70% of those murders, that’s nearly 204 gun deaths so far in 2017.
Next: We head to the Rockies.
- Population, 2016: 693,060
- Murder rate, 2016: 8.3 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 81
Many cities of a similar size have more murders, but in 2017 Denver has seen its murder per capita number increase by 2.9 to 11.2, one of the larger increases in the country. The city is already more than 20 murders above its 2016 total of 58. The number of estimated gun-related homicides (56.7) in 2017 is nearly equal to the total number of murders in 2016.
Next: A Southern river city
7. Louisville, Kentucky
- Population, 2016: 616,261
- Murder rate, 2016: 17.2 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 141
Louisville is already nearly 25 homicides above its 2016 total. The 141 murders so far in 2017 are more than several other cities (such as Boston, El Paso, and Portland) of a similar size. An increase of 3.3 murders per capita, up to 20.5, is one of the largest increases in big cities in the United States. Using the stat of 70% of all homicides being gun related, that’s close to 99 deaths by gun-related violence.
Next: Moving down to Music City
6. Nashville, Tennessee
- Population, 2016: 660,388
- Murder rate, 2016: 12.6 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 109
Four suburban Nashville towns are among the best places to live in 2017, but the city itself has seen murders increase by more than 31% from 2016. From 83 a year prior to 109 in 2017, Nashville has seen its per-capita murder rate climb to 16.4 with three more months left in the year. If national trends hold true in Nashville, that’s more than 76 gun-related homicides so far in 2017.
Next: The Buckeye State’s capital makes the list.
5. Columbus, Ohio
- Population, 2016: 860,090
- Murder rate, 2016: 9.5 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 118
Columbus has a lot going for it, including a solid job market and affordable real estate. The rate of homicides is another story. Already in 2017, Columbus is close to 50% above the 82 homicides it tallied all of 2016. If 70% of those murders are due to firearms, that’s close to 83 gun-related deaths in 2017. The murders per capita are up to 13.4, a jump of 3.9 that is one of the largest in the nation.
Next: The one city you probably expected to see
- Population, 2016: 2,704,958
- Murder rate, 2016: 28.8 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 764
The number of murders so far in 2017 is actually less than the 781 Chicago tallied in 2016. Murders per capita are also down, but those are small victories. Chicago looks poised to once again tally the highest number of murders of any city in the country this year. If 70% of Chicago’s homicides are from guns, that’s more than 534 gun-related deaths for the year.
Next: Tragedy puts Las Vegas on the list.
3. Las Vegas
- Population, 2016: 632,912
- Murder rate, 2016: 10.6 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 201
The events that took place in Las Vegas pushed 2017’s number of murders well higher than the 168 from 2016. The tragedy also sent the murders per capita soaring. Assuming 70% of all murders were from guns, that’s around 141 deaths by gun violence this year alone.
Next: Not the notoriety this city wants
2. Charlotte, North Carolina
- Population, 2016: 842,051
- Murder rate, 2016: 7.5 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 145
The number of homicides in Charlotte has already doubled from 2016, when the city counted 68 homicides. The potential number of gun-related deaths (101) from 2017 far exceeds the 2016 murder total on its own. The number of murders per capita is up to 15.7, but as we are about to find out that’s not close to being the worst of it.
Next: The worst city for gun violence
- Population, 2016: 614,664
- Murder rate, 2016: 51.3 per 100,000
- Murders to date, 2017: 375
The number of homicides in Baltimore is staggering for a city of its size. There were 318 murders in 2016, but Baltimore has already raced past that figure. That might not be the worst of it. The murders per capita in 2016 were already frighteningly high at 51.3, but that figure is up to 60.6 per 100,000 for 2017. If we use the national average of 70% of homicides being gun related, that’s 262 gun deaths in a city of a little more than 600,000. To put that number in perspective, that’s close to half the assumed number of gun deaths in Chicago — but in a city only a quarter as populous.
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