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The racial divide in America’s gun deaths

A data reading between the racial lines. (Alexandre Meneghini/AP Photo)

Gun violence is disproportionately affecting the country's African American population.

Black Americans are more than twice as likely to die from gun violence than whites, according to a new study that surveyed more than a decades' worth of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2000 and 2010, the death rate due to firearm-related injuries was more than 18.5 per 100,000 among blacks, but only nine per 100,000 among whites. For Hispanics, it was just over seven per 100,000, and for all other races it was just below 3.5 per 100,000.

The racial divide is even more prominent on state and district levels.

In Washington D.C., for instance, the death rate associated with firearms is more than thirteen and a half times for African Americans what it is for whites.

No state has as wide a gap as New Jersey, where black people are four and a half times as likely to die from gun violence than whites. In Illinois, the state with the second largest divide, African Americans are roughly four and a quarter times as likely; in Massachusetts, the third most divided, black people are just over four times as likely; and in Michigan, the fourth most divided, black people are just under four times as likely.

Black Americans are much more likely to die from gun violence than whites

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For white residents, the death rate associated with gun violence ranged from 2.57 deaths per 100,000 in Massachusetts, the lowest registered among any state, to 15.91 deaths per 100,000 in New Mexico, the highest registered among any state.

Gun death rate among whites

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For African Americans, it ranged from 2,93 deaths per 100,000 people in Hawaii, the lowest for any state, to 30.12 per 100,000 in Missouri, the highest for any state. In Washington D.C., the rate is more than 40 deaths per 100,000 people.

Gun death rate among African Americans

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While the national divide remains stark, it actually used to be even more stark. A little over 20 years ago, in 1993, African Americans were more than three times as likely to die from gun violence than white Americans. And that gap has continued to close. "The overall fall in FRF [firearm-related fatality rates] after 2000 corresponded to a related narrowing of the racial gap between African-Americans and Caucasians," the study said.

But, as Pew Research pointed out last year, that narrowing of the gap is in part due to the the changing face of America. "The share of victims by racial or ethnic group has changed little since 1993, but the makeup of the U.S. population has altered," Pew notes.

The particularities of gun deaths among white and black Americans can be as different as the rates at which they occur. As The Washington Post noted last year, African-Americans who are killed by gun violence are significantly more likely to die as a result of a homicide. Whites are much more likely to use a gun to commit suicide.

A white person is five times as likely to commit suicide with a gun as to be shot with a gun; for each African American who uses a gun to commit suicide, five are killed by other people with guns.

Even sentiments about gun control are, in at least some ways, split along racial lines. A Washington Post-ABC News poll from last year found that more than three quarters of African Americans support stronger gun control, compared to fewer than half of whites.

The reality is that gun violence is largely divided, and shaped, by race in America.

The possible reasons are complex. A 1993 report suggests that gun ownership is a leading culprit. And later studies have reached similar conclusions. But, as this most recent study notes, there is likely more at play here: "Several factors have been posited that might explain these persistent racial differences, including socioeconomic determinants and increased firearm availability."