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New Analysis Shows Gun Violence's Impact On Black Illinoisans

"End Gun Violence" T-shirt hangs at event
Jeff Smudde
T-shirts hang up at a recent #WearOrange event hosted by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America's local chapter in Normal.

In 2018, nine gun-related homicides happened in Bloomington-Normal. All the victims were people of color, and seven were black.

This disproportionate impact on minority communities is prevalent across Illinois. A new analysis by the Violence Policy Center (VPC), based on 2016 data, ranked Illinois 4th among U.S. states with the highest black homicide victimization rates. Illinois’ rate was 36.40 black homicide victims per 100,000 black people—nearly twice the national black homicide victimization rate.

This is VPC’s 13th year doing the study. The nonprofit aims to reduce gun-related deaths and injuries through research, education, advocacy, and collaboration. By capturing data every year, VPC tells the story behind the data: Black homicide victimization is a crisis that’s consistent each year and not being properly addressed.

Homicide among black Illinoisans is significant in numbers, and its effects on the community is just as major, VPC Executive Director Josh Sugermann said.

“There's been a great deal of growing research, talking about how being exposed to violence on a daily basis, basically community trauma, can impact not just a resident’s emotional well-being or psychological well-being, but actually literally has physical impacts on someone's health, their ability to progress in life, their educational opportunities,” Sugermann said.

For Illinois, five observations of the study stood out:

  1. Of the 685 black homicide victims, 626 were male and 59 were female.
  2. 63 black homicide victims (9%) were less than 18 years old, and 5 victims (1%) were 65 years of age or older. The average age was 28.
  3. When the weapon used could be identified, 93% of black homicide victims (625 out of 670) were killed with guns. Of these, 93% (583 victims) were killed with handguns.
  4. For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 70% of black homicide victims (89 out of 127) were killed by someone they knew. And 38 victims were killed by strangers.
  5. For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 88% (450 out of 514) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 11% (51 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.

There is hope in combating the policies and biases that prompt these tragedies.
“The goal of this study is to create opportunities for those organizations, advocates and policymakers who are working to combat this type of violence. And then finally, offer one more piece of information that helps in crafting effective policies to reduce violence,” Sugermann said.

And with Illinois ranked No. 4 in the U.S., some are calling for passage of a gun ownership bill that failed to clear the Illinois General Assembly this spring.

“As gun violence continues to take its toll on Illinois and black communities across the state, it is time for policymakers to take action,” Kathleen Sances, managing director of the Gun Violence Prevention Education Center (G-PEC), said in a statement. “That’s why we’re standing behind the Fix the FOID Act, SB 1966, that looks to address loopholes in the state’s gun licensing system.”

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Amina Jinadu is a social media and online writing intern at WGLT and a student at Illinois State University's School of Communication. She began working at WGLT in summer 2019.
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