White men in America continue to dominate in many categories: They make up a disproportionate share of Fortune 500 CEOs. They continue to overrepresent our highest levels of government. They still make more money than their Black and female peers.
But there’s something far more insidious that men, particularly white men, appear to excel at — they are the disproportionate perpetrators and, at least in Colorado, victims of gun violence.
This isn’t the first time I’ve highlighted concerns about male gun violence. In February, I authored a column titled “Men don’t need access to guns, they need therapy.”
“This leads us to perhaps the most important yet overlooked gun violence fact,” I wrote. “In America, men are the perpetrators of nearly all gun violence and deaths. In suicides, men make up 80% of all deaths, with over half involving a gun. In homicides, more than 80% are committed by men, 80% of which are carried out with guns. In public mass shootings, 98% of shooters are men, with assault weapons being the weapon of choice in 52% of the most deadly events. Even shootings by law enforcement are majority men.”
This week, I chose to follow up on this topic.
My interest here is partly because Colorado legislators are in the process of passing a slew of sensible gun safety laws. It’s also partly because one of The Sun’s reporters, John Ingold, recently updated the outlet’s 38-year analysis on Colorado gun deaths to include the most recent tallies from 2020 and 2021.
In a nutshell, it’s not good.
According to the updated statistics, gun deaths in Colorado have hit a 40-year high. But given the proposed laws and my previous column on male gun violence, two of the numbers Ingold provided stuck out the most.
First, most gun deaths in Colorado occur in people under the age of 45. Second, men make up nearly 85% of all gun deaths. What the update doesn’t include, however, are statistics on gun deaths by race.
So I dove into the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s data a bit more myself. And guess what? In addition to the stats I provided earlier showing that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of gun violence at the national level, at least in Colorado from 2020 to 2021, men were also overwhelmingly the victims of gun violence — specifically, white men.
Breaking this data down a bit more, there are several possible categorizations of deaths related to firearms by CDPHE. The primary options include suicide, homicide and injury. In suicides, most gun deaths occurred among white men. In homicides by gun, again, mostly men, mostly white. In deaths by firearm injuries, once more, mostly men and mostly white.
To be clear, this isn’t to say that people of other gender or race aren’t affected by gun violence. They absolutely are, albeit in smaller numbers than white men in recent Colorado stats. Plus, as mentioned, when gun deaths impact these populations, many are at the hands of white men and/or they may be targeted for their gender, orientation or race, which can substantially increase the associated trauma.
No matter how you slice it, the data in Colorado clearly reveal that between 2020 and 2021 Colorado’s gun death problem is overwhelmingly skewed toward the white male population.
At this point, I could easily detail to you why the gun safety laws by Colorado Democrats are likely to help, but many have already done this and Republicans are still opposed.
So instead, I’ll pose these questions: Does having up-to-date data that shows gun deaths in Colorado from 2020 to 2021 are predominantly affecting white males change how you look at gun safety laws?
For example, does knowing that young white men in Colorado are particularly at risk for suicide, and especially that they are more likely to be mass shooters based on federal data, change your outlook on why increasing the age to buy firearms or expanding and enforcing red flag laws might actually be very effective at curbing violence?
Or does knowing that three-quarters of Colorado’s gun deaths are suicides, which again largely impacts white males, somehow make you reconsider why increasing wait times on gun purchases could help reduce deaths caused by impromptu emotional decisions?
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Most of all, given that the party opposed to gun safety legislation is largely run by the people dying most, if learning gun deaths impact white men the most doesn’t change your mind on gun safety laws, what would it take? Are we to accept the mass killings of children in schools? Do we just say OK to young men taking their own lives? Is this now our status quo?
Alternatively, if learning about this new data has prompted you to reconsider your support of gun safety legislation in Colorado favorably, thank you. But also please ask yourself why it took learning that gun deaths impact white men more to finally get on board.
Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado. Trish can be found on Twitter @trish_zornio
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