Murder Rate for Black Americans Is Four Times the National Average

Here are a couple of facts that every American should be ashamed of: Black Americans are four times more likely to be murdered than the national average. What's more, four out of five black homicide victims are killed with guns.

Our new Violence Policy Center report, "Black Homicide Victimization in the United States," is a grim reminder that our nation's gun violence epidemic places a disproportionate burden on African Americans. While the daily toll of gun homicide is seen in shopping malls, schools, campuses, movie theaters, and homes across America, African Americans still face the greatest risk of being murdered with a gun.

Our report uses unpublished data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Supplementary Homicide Report. The data for this year's report is from 2011, the most recent year for which such information is available.

Our report also ranks the states according to their black homicide victimization rates. This year, Nebraska ranked the highest with a black homicide victimization rate of 34.43 per 100,000, followed by Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma.

Nationwide, the black homicide victimization rate in 2011 was 17.51 per 100,000. The overall national homicide victimization rate was 4.44 per 100,000, and among white Americans, the homicide victimization rate was 2.64 per 100,000.

As Carl Williams of the Saginaw NAACP in Michigan told a local TV station after his state was found to have the third highest black homicide victimization rate in the nation: "I truly believe if this situation existed in a lot of communities outside of the African American community, it would be declared a national emergency."

The homicide crisis in the black community is overwhelmingly a gun violence problem. Nationwide, when the weapon used could be identified, 82 percent of black homicide victims were shot and killed with guns. Among the victims killed with guns, 77 percent were killed with handguns.

Of course, these are not simply numbers. These are real lives being destroyed, families devastated, entire communities torn apart.

On the same morning we released our report, Ben Gray, an Omaha city councilman, attended the funeral for his grand-niece who was killed by a stray bullet while eating breakfast in her home. The child was five years old.

Gray told the Omaha World-Herald that he is "less interested in the statistics than in what the city, collectively, is going to do about it."

Below are the 10 states with the highest black homicide victimization rates in 2011:


Nationwide, the study also found that:

• Of the 6,309 black homicide victims in the United States, 5,452 were male, 854 were female, and 3 were of unknown gender.

• The homicide rate for black male victims was 31.67 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall homicide rate for male victims was 7.13 per 100,000. For white male victims, the homicide rate was 3.85 per 100,000.

• The homicide rate for black female victims was 4.54 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall homicide rate for female victims was 1.81 per 100,000. For white female victims, the homicide rate was 1.45 per 100,000.

• Four hundred eighty-seven black homicide victims (8 percent) were less than 18 years old and 100 victims (2 percent) were 65 years of age or older. The average age was 30 years old.

• For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 73 percent of black victims (2,138 out of 2,928) were murdered by someone they knew. Seven hundred ninety victims were killed by strangers.

• For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 70 percent (2,540 out of 3,652) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 58 percent (1,475 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.

These statistics should be a wake-up call for our elected officials to address the disproportionately high homicide victimization rate among black men and women. The longer we wait to act, the more lives will be lost.