The Washington-based Violence Policy Center reported yesterday that Pennsylvania leads the nation in the per capita rate of black homicide victims – ahead of the next closest states, Louisiana, Indiana, California and Missouri.
The figures are based on an analysis of 2004 FBI crime statistics, the first study to rank states based on their black homicide rates, said the center’s statement.
The center’s executive director noted that the survey looked at statewide data, and he was reluctant to speculate on Philadelphia’s role. In 2004, the city registered 330 murders – the number rose sharply to 406 last year – and more than 80 percent of the victims were black.
“The handgun is the primary [reason] behind the high rates,” said Josh Sugarmann, the center director.
The report, which was co-authored by Sugarmann, said that firearms killed 86 percent of the 398 black murder victims in Pennsylvania in 2004. And eight out of 10 of those deaths were by a handgun.
According to the FBI’s 2004 numbers, firearms were the weapon of choice for 70 percent of murders. Of that group, handguns made up 77 percent of killings. Both numbers, while high, are lower than the Pennsylvania rate, fodder for those who say that the Keystone State pays a price for its lax gun laws.
Both in Pennsylvania and across the country, blacks were murdered at a much higher rate than the general population. The nation’s per capita homicide rate was 5.5 murders per 100,000 residents, according to the FBI.
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RELATED: “Two men were gunned down in two hours overnight, raising this year’s homicide total to 31, according to Philadelphia police this morning. Martin Nercome, 30, was shot in the chest at 11:05 last night at or near his home in the 7800 block of Michener Avenue in Germantown. Montez Felder, 21, who lived in the 2800 block of South Marshall Street, was shot in the head about 12:45 a.m. in the 2200 block of South Sixth Street in South Philadelphia, police said.”