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Escambia County reports low gun violence

By Kendra Majors

The Andalusia Star-News

A new report by Everytown Research, which looks at gun violence across the United States, found that Alabama, at 961 gun deaths per year or 19.7 deaths per 100,000 people, has the third highest rate of gun deaths in the nation.

At 21.3 gun deaths per 100,000 people, Escambia County has a lower rate of gun deaths in the state than many – the report states that Escambia County averages eight gun deaths per year among a population of 37,736.

Endlessly working to protect local residents, Sheriff Heath Jackson contributes the low report to a joint effort across the county.

“Myself, along with the chiefs of police with other agencies, are very proactive when it comes to targeting these areas where we do have violent trends that seem to take place,” said Jackson.

Statewide data shows that 54.8 percent of gun deaths in Alabama, roughly 527 per year, are the result of firearm suicide and 40.8 percent, around 392 deaths per year, are the result of firearm homicide.

Unintentional firearm deaths make up 2.4 percent of firearm deaths in the state each year, roughly 23 annually, while undetermined firearm deaths make up 1.1 percent of annual gun deaths, around 11 per year.

The study also notes that only 0.8 percent of annual gun deaths in the state, roughly eight per year, are the result of law enforcement shootings, though those numbers are believed to be underreported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – according to the Fatal Force database produced by The Washington Post, which is widely relied upon by researchers and the media, the number is closer to 20 deaths per year at the hands of Alabama law enforcement.

Between 2008 and 2017, gun deaths in Alabama increased by 32 percent, while the national average increased by only 17 percent, and Alabama’s current numbers on firearm suicides indicate that the state’s rate is 44 percent higher than the national rate.

The report breaks down instances of gun violence among a variety of demographics.

The report states that 60 Alabama children die each year as a result of firearms and 60 percent of that is the result of gun homicides, compared to the national average of 58 percent, making firearm homicides the second leading cause of death among children and teens in Alabama, just behind motor vehicle accidents.

Black children and teens are three times more likely to die by guns than their white peers.

Among adults in Alabama, white people are four times more likely to die by firearm suicide than black people, while black people are six times more likely to die by gun homicide than white people.

White people make up 63.3 percent of the gun deaths in Alabama, and black people account for 34.9 percent.

Desiring a safe holiday season across the county and state, Jackson encourages others to be aware of the surroundings.

“The main thing I would say as far as avoiding gun violence, is just be aware of your surroundings. Don’t put yourself in a situation around different groups where people might be armed and drinking or using drugs. Avoid places you normally wouldn’t be at dark, and avoid neighborhoods you aren’t familiar with,” shared Jackson.

“If you are uncertain about areas throughout the state, don’t venture off into them, especially traveling during the holidays. If you are traveling off the interstate be aware of your surroundings,” he concluded.