Nearly 85 Percent of Black Homicide Victims Killed With Guns, Study Finds

For Release: Thursday, March 3, 2016

Violence Policy Center study lists black homicide victimization rates by state

Washington, DC — A gun is by far the most common weapon used to kill black victims of homicide in America, according to a new study by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The study found 84 percent of black homicide victims nationwide are killed with guns, most often a handgun.

The annual study, Black Homicide Victimization in the United States: An Analysis of 2013 Homicide Data, is based on unpublished data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). The study details homicide rates for 2013, the most recent year for which comprehensive national data is available. This is the tenth year the Violence Policy Center has released the study.

In addition to providing nationwide data, the study ranks the states according to their black homicide victimization rates. In 2013, Indiana had the highest black homicide victimization rate in the nation, followed by Missouri.

“In America, black men and women face a disproportionate risk of being murdered, a fact both alarming and unacceptable,” states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “Moreover, our study found that the vast majority of these homicides are committed with guns, usually a handgun. We hope our research will not only help educate the public and policymakers, but aid those national, state, and community leaders who are already working to end this grave injustice.”

For the entire UNITED STATES, the study finds that in 2013:

•    There were 6,217 black homicide victims in the United States that year. Blacks represent 13 percent of the U.S. population yet account for 50 percent of all homicide victims.

•    The black homicide victimization rate in the United States was 16.91 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall national homicide victimization rate was 4.27 per 100,000. For whites, the national homicide victimization rate was 2.54 per 100,000.

•    Of the 6,217 black homicide victims, 5,381 were male and 836 were female. The homicide victimization rate for black male victims was 30.59 per 100,000. The homicide victimization rate for female black victims was 4.36 per 100,000.

•    For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 84 percent of black victims (4,960 out of 5,891) were shot and killed with guns. Of these, 73 percent (3,609 victims) were killed with handguns.

•    For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 72 percent of black victims (2,002 out of 2,766) were killed by someone they knew. The number of victims killed by strangers was 764.

•    For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 68 percent (2,534 out of 3,754) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 51 percent (1,284 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.

The 10 states with the highest black homicide victimization rates in 2013 were:


The FBI data includes incidents reported as justifiable homicides of black victims killed by law enforcement. Nationwide, there were 140 such incidents reported in 2013. The data does not specifically identify killings by police that are not ruled justifiable. The FBI recently announced it will dramatically expand its data collection on violent police encounters by 2017.

The study calculates black homicide victimization rates by dividing the number of black homicide victims by the black population, and multiplying the result by 100,000. This is the standard and accepted method of comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

The full study is available at




The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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