This section offers information on Hispanics and firearms violence in three specific regions of the country with uniquely comprehensive data: California, Texas, and Chicago, Illinois.
Texas and California are two of the states which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies as being part of the American Southwest (the remainder are Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico). Approximately 60 percent of all Hispanics in the United States reside in the Southwest. A CDC analysis of homicides in the Southwest from 1970 to 1983 found that firearms were used in 65.1 percent of Hispanic homicides and that, from 1977 to 1982, Hispanics had an age-adjusted homicide rate of 22.2 per 100,000. The study also found that Hispanic females were killed by firearms more than any other female racial/ethnic group.19
Chart 11: Data from Homicide Surveillance: High-Risk Racial and Ethnic Groups – Blacks and Hispanics, 1970 to 1983 (Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1986).
California has the largest Hispanic population of any state. The state’s 10 million Hispanics comprise 30 percent of its total population. As a result, the state has made a concerted effort to code its data collection for Hispanic origin.
In 1998, the California Department of Justice found that, although Hispanics made up only 30 percent of the population, they accounted for 44 percent of all homicide victims.20 In homicides where a weapon could be determined, 77.4 percent of Hispanics were murdered with a firearmï¿½the highest percentage for any racial or ethnic group.21 (See Chart 12) And when Hispanics were murdered with a gun, it was almost always with a handgunï¿½89.8 percent of all gun homicides. Handguns were used in 69.5 percent of all Hispanic homicidesï¿½once again the highest of any racial or ethnic group.22 (See Chart 13)
Chart 12: Data from Homicide in California (Sacramento: California Department of Justice, 1999): 76.
Chart 13: Data from Homicide in California (Sacramento: California Department of Justice, 1999): 76.
Chart 14 presents the actual number of California homicide victims for 1998 and offers an additional illustration of the handgun’s toll on California’s Hispanics.
Chart 14: Data from Homicide in California (Sacramento: California Department of Justice, 1999): 76.
A 1999 joint study by the California Department of Health Services, Division of Violence Prevention, and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, from 1995 to 1996, Hispanics had the second highest firearms death rate (15.2 percent) of any racial/ethnic group.23 (See Chart 15)
Chart 15: Data from “Firearm-Associated Deaths and Hospitalizationsï¿½California, 1995-1996,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 48, no. 23 (1999): 485-488.
Hispanics also had the second highest nonfatal firearms injury rate, 28.9 per 100,000. Blacks had the highest rate at 69.4 per 100,000.24 As seen in Chart 16, most racial/ethnic groups have a higher rate of nonfatal firearm-related injuries than firearm-related deaths. Whites are the sole exception, the result of a markedly higher suicide rate among white males.c
Chart 16: Data from “Firearm-Associated Deaths and Hospitalizationsï¿½California, 1995-1996,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 48, no. 23 (1999): 485-488.
With nearly six million Hispanics, Texas has the second largest Hispanic population of any state.25
According to 1998 FBI Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data,26 there were 498 homicides involving Hispanic victims in Texas in 1998.27 Of these murders, 66.9 percent (333) involved firearms. Handguns were used in 72.7 percent (242) of all firearm murders. That same year, there were: 353 white homicide victims, of which 58.6 percent were killed with a firearm; and, 387 black homicide victims, of which 77.8 percent were killed with a firearm.28
Chart 17: Data from 1998 FBI Supplementary Homicide Report. Analysis performed by the VPC.
For that year, nearly 15 percent of Hispanic firearm homicide victims were 18 years of age or younger. Only 15.6 percent of Hispanic firearm homicides occurred during the commission of another felony. Where the victim-offender relationship could be determined, 38.9 percent of the offenders were unknown to the victim. In cases where the victim knew their offender, 18.1 percent involved intimate acquaintances such as a spouse, common-law spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or ex-spouse.29
Another study, “Firearm-related deaths among children in Texas: 1984-1988,” found that Hispanic children 14 years of age and younger had the lowest rates of both firearms homicide (0.44 per 100,000) and firearms suicide (0.19 per 100,000) of any racial/ethnic group. The highest rate of firearms death for this group came from unintentional shootingsï¿½0.46 per 100,000.30 For Hispanic children five to 14 years old, unintentional firearm deaths were surpassed only by motor vehicle fatalities and drownings as a cause of injury-related death in Texas.31 In all firearm death categories for Hispanic children, male children had higher rates than female children.32 (See Chart 18)
Chart 18: Data from Patti J. Patterson et al., “Firearm-related deaths among children in Texas: 1984-1988,” The Journal of Texas Medicine 86 (July 1990): 92-97.
The city of Chicago is unique in that data regarding homicide has been gathered continuously from police investigation files since 1965. The Chicago Homicide Dataset is the largest, most detailed data set on violence available in the United States.33 Additionally, information regarding Hispanic ethnicity has been separately coded for many years, allowing more specific aspects of Hispanics and firearmsï¿½such as intimate partner homicidesï¿½to be analyzed.
In Chicago, from 1965 to 1995, 13 percent of homicide victims were Hispanic. Of these Hispanic victims, 73 percent were killed with a firearm, compared with 66 percent of black victims, and 49 percent of white victims.34 (See Chart 19)
Chart 19: Data from “Homicides in Chicago, 1965-1995,” Chicago Homicide Dataset (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, University of Michigan), downloaded July 21, 2000, from www.icpsr.umich.edu/cgi/SDA11/hsda3; INTERNET.
Intraracial homicides are the norm in most types of homicide, including both firearm homicides and intimate partner homicides. A 29-year study in Chicago looked at all three of these homicide typesï¿½intraracial, firearm, and intimate partnerï¿½and found that firearms were used in 62.6 percent of Hispanic-on-Hispanic intimate partner homicides, the highest usage among all intraracial intimate partner homicides.35 A firearm was used in 60.0 percent of Hispanic-on-Hispanic homicides where a female killed a male partner, and in 63.4 percent of Hispanic-on-Hispanic homicides where a male killed a female partner. In contrast, a firearm was used in 49.1 percent of white-on-white intimate partner homicides, and in 48.9 percent of black-on-black intimate partner homicides.36
The greatest risk of intimate partner homicide occurs at different ages for women of different racial/ethnic groups. While the risk of being killed in an intimate partner homicide for Hispanic women peaks at a relatively young age (25 to 29 years old) and declines sharply thereafter, the risk for white women peaks at ages 35 to 39 years and declines more gradually.37
The chance of suicide for male intimate homicide offenders in Chicago was highest for Hispanic (21 percent) and white (25 percent) male offenders. It was especially high for Latino husbandsï¿½as many as 29 percent of Latino men killed themselves after killing their wives.38
c)The firearm as a suicide tool is startlingly effective. In California, where only 10 percent of unintentional and 32 percent of assaultive firearm-related injuries resulted in death, 90 percent of firearm-related suicide attempts resulted in death. “Firearm-Associated Deaths and Hospitalizationsï¿½California, 1995-1996,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 48, no. 23 (1999): 485-488.