Missouri has the highest Black homicide rate in America — and some of the loosest gun laws
In what it calls a crisis, the Violence Policy Center’s new study says Black Missourians are killed at more than twice the national rate for the Black community, and 94% are killed by guns. It's the seventh year in a row that Missouri has ranked as the highest Black homicide rate in the country.
Missouri has the highest Black homicide rate in the U.S. for the seventh year in a row — and the violence is driven by guns, a new study found.
The report, by the Washington-based gun control advocacy nonprofit Violence Policy Center, found that Black Missourians are killed at a rate of nearly 51 per 100,000 people — more than twice the national Black homicide rate and 8.5 times the overall homicide rate across the country.
Josh Sugarmann, the center’s executive director, said Missouri has reached a crisis. The Black homicide victimization rate in Missouri increased by 46% from 2014 to 2020, he said.
“This is the 14th year in a row that Missouri has either ranked first or second in the nation for black homicide victimization,” he said. “It's a staggering figure, and one that should shock Missouri residents and really lead to action.”
The study was done using 2020 FBI statistics in the Supplementary Homicide Report, submitted by local police agencies including the Kansas City Police Department.
Nationally, there were 9,753 Black homicide victims in the U.S. in 2020, a 29% increase from 2019, the study found. The Black homicide victimization rate was nearly four times higher than the overall rate and seven times the white homicide rate, the study said.
Gwen Grant, executive director of the Urban League, said she was well aware of Kansas City’s violence problem but didn’t know that Missouri held the top slot in Black homicides.
“I am both astonished and heartbroken,” she said.
Kansas City has set homicide records several times in recent years. So far this year, there have been 52 homicides, which is ahead of last year’s pace, according to Kansas City Police statistics. Black males are 65 percent of the victims.
In Missouri, the most common weapon used was a gun, used in 94% of the killings. Missouri has some of the loosest gun regulations in the country. In 2021, Gov. Mike Parson signed into the law the Second Amendment Preservation Act, which bars police from enforcing federal gun laws. The law is still in effect even as it’s being challenged in the courts.
“If you look at Missouri, the homicide problem is clearly a gun problem,” Sugarmann said.
Grant said something must be done to address the proliferation of guns.
“For the past several years, the Missouri legislature has made it far too easy to own and carry guns,” she said. “It appears that our lawmakers are placing far greater value on the right to bear arms than on the sanctity of human life.”