JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – An epidemic of black homicide victimization continues to go unnoticed throughout Missouri, according to a new report by the Violence Policy Center.
By Trimmel Gomes
Public News Service
According to the report’s 2015 analysis, Missouri has more black victims of homicide than any other state in the nation. In fact, of the 12 years the data was being tracked, Missouri has been in the top two for nine of those years.
Josh Sugarmann is executive director for the Violence Policy Center, which advocates for gun control.
“One thing that is constant is the high number of homicides involving guns, almost always handguns,” he says. “In the most recent study, 93 percent of black homicide victims in Missouri were killed with guns.”
Black residents represented 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2015, but they accounted for more than half of all homicide victims, often involving guns.
Sugarmann cautions that the data is only as reliable as what’s submitted by law enforcement, but it’s clear blacks in the United States are disproportionately affected by homicide. He says the purpose of the report is to help focus public attention on what he calls a persistent and ongoing crisis.
But while bringing the problem into the spotlight, Sugamann says he’s found that local communities trying to offer sollutions are finding their hands tied.
“Because the state has what’s called a pre-emption, which means that communities that want to do something – pass local laws regarding the sale, availability of firearms – can’t do anything,” he explains. “They are not allowed to.”
Sugarmann says there must be a focus on reducing access and exposure to firearms to curb the problem. The report used unpublished supplementary data for black homicide victims that was submitted to the FBI by each state.