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Oakland 3rd in nation for youth firearm murder

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Four years ago, Oakland preteens and teens were statistically more likely to die in a firearm homicide than kids in nearly all other major U.S. cities.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on firearm deaths in metropolitan areas [PDF] in 2006 and 2007, the most recent data available. Only New Orleans and St. Louis had higher rates of 10- to 19-year-olds killed by gunfire during those years.

Oakland's overall homicide numbers have dropped in recent years, though it is unknown how this has changed the city's rate of youth firearm homicides.

Here are the raw numbers* for the five highest annual rates of preteen and teen firearm murder in 2006 and 2007:

City

Firearm homicides

Rate (per 100,000 10- to 19-year-olds)

New Orleans

59

106

St. Louis

46

50.2

Oakland

42

47.7

Newark, NJ

38

47.4

Baltimore

80

45.8

Oakland was in the midst of a surge in homicides during the two years captured in this report. The East Bay city’s murder count was 28 percent lower in 2009 (104 homicides [PDF]) than it was in 2006 (145).

The CDC report detailed firearm violence for the whole populations of the metro areas, breaking out homicide and suicide numbers. However, the researchers spotlighted young victims, who were disproportionately harmed by shootings nationwide.

The youth firearm homicide rate was higher than the overall rate in 88 percent of the cities examined. “For youths aged 10–19 years, firearm homicide was the second leading cause and firearm suicide was the fifth leading cause of injury death nationally,” the report states.

That disparity was true across California, though no other Golden State city had rates comparable to Oakland.

Teen and preteens in Sacramento had a firearm homicide rate of 20.6 per 100,000; the rate for the capitol city’s entire population was 11.1. Similarly, in Los Angeles, the rate for youths was 17.3, and 9.2 for all.

Several California cities (including San Diego and San Francisco) had fewer than 20 youth firearm murders in 2006 and 2007, too few for the CDC to generate a meaningful rate.

These numbers document the toll of gun violence on children. However, such data points offer few conclusions beyond pinpointing where the problem is most grave. Violent crime typically defies simple explanation, as the National Academies explained in a 2004 review:

Explaining a violent death is a difficult business. Personal temperament, mental health, the availability of weapons, human motivation, law enforcement policies, and accidental circumstances all play a role in leading one person but not another to inflict serious violence. Furthermore, the impact that a gun has on a situation depends critically on the nature of the interaction taking place.

*Source: CDC, with data from the National Vital Statistics System and the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

Filed under: Public Safety, Daily Report

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