Soldiers in Iraq. Stock photo from Pixabay
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Gun violence: More risk in Chicago and Philadelphia than Iraq, Afghanistan

A striking statistic: young Americans are several times more likely to be injured by a gun in cities like Chicago and Philadelphia than they are while serving as a soldier in a foreign country.

Published: January 9, 2023, 10:24 am

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    Brandon del Pozo, an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island and his co-authors in the JAMA Network Open of the American Medical Association made the revealing statistical comparison. The researchers explained: “In 2020, the homicide rate in US cities increased by 30 percent. For the first time, firearms became the leading cause of death among children, adolescents and young adults.”

    Brandon del Pozo and his co-authors therefore came up with the idea of ​​using combat mortality statistics from GIs in the Iraq war and Afghanistan as a benchmark for young men from minority groups aged between 18 and 29 years.

    The study identified a population of 129 826 young men residing in the top 10 percent of violent crime-affected US cities of Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York. Among them, there were 470 murders and 1 684 gunshot wounds in 2020 and 2021.

    Young men in Chicago’s most violent districts were more than three times as likely to be killed by a gunshot compared to soldiers sent to Afghanistan, the researchers found, while those in Philadelphia’s most violent area were almost twice as likely to be shot to death.

    In all districts of the two cities studied, young black men overwhelmingly face the risk of firearm-related death, the findings showed.

    “These results are an urgent wake-up call for understanding, appreciating and responding to the risks and attendant traumas faced by this demographic of young men,” the study leader said.

    The gun murder data showed black and Hispanic men represented 96 percent of those who were fatally shot, and 97 percent of those injured in a shooting, according to the report.

    For the scientists, the statistical finding is clear: “Adult young men who lived in the district (zip code; ed.) most affected by violence in Chicago had a 3,23-fold higher risk of being fatal victims of a firearm attack than a deployment in Afghanistan […].” In Philadelphia’s most violent areas, the risk was still almost twice as high as in Afghanistan, at a factor of 1,91. The comparative figures from Afghanistan came from the years 2001 to 2014, and from the Iraq war for the years 2003 to 2014.

    The incidence of nonfatal firearm injuries in Chicago and Philadelphia was lower than in a military operation in Afghanistan, but about the same as for US soldiers in Iraq. New York and Los Angeles fared somewhat better.

    Overall, young men in Chicago’s crime hotspots have a 1,3 percent annual risk of being the victim of a firearm murder. Together with non-fatal injuries, this risk increases to 5,8 percent annually. This overall risk was 3,2 percent in Philadelphia, 0,7 percent in New York, and 0,6 percent in Los Angeles.

    Philadelphia’s residents are 44,1 percent black, 35,8 percent white, 13,6 percent Latino and 7,2 percent Asian. According to the 2021 US Census Bureau American Community Survey, the population of Chicago, Illinois was 36,1 percent white, 28,5 percent black and 6,9 percent Asian.

    Chicago however, is considered the most gang-occupied city in the United States, with a population ranging from 100 000 active members from over 70 gangs, with more than 150 000 members. Gang warfare and retaliation is common in Chicago. Gangs were responsible for 61 percent of the murders in Chicago in 2011 already. Since then, the problem has only become bigger.

    Former Chicago Police Superintendent, Garry McCarthy, blamed Chicago’s gang culture for its high murder rates and other violent crime, stating “It’s very frustrating to know that it’s like 7 percent of the population causes 80 percent of the violent crime… The gangs here are traditional gangs that are generational, if you will. The grandfather was a gang member, the father’s a gang member, and the kid right now is going to be a gang member”.

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