Firearm Used In Nearly Half Of All Indigenous Persons Homicides: CDC Report

November 19, 2021

By a Biometrica staffer

On Thursday, Nov. 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement that analysis of data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) was helping it uncover the characteristics surrounding homicides of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people. One of the key findings, the CDC said, was that a firearm was used in nearly half (48%) of all homicides of Indigenous People, per an analysis of data from 34 states and the District of Columbia for the period 2003-2018.

Other main findings of the report included one that showed the rate of homicide was three times higher in AI/AN males than females (12 versus 4 per 100,000). And approximately half of victims lived (48%) or were killed (53%) in metropolitan areas. Among female victims, 38% of suspects were current or former intimate partners.

When it comes to the suspects of these homicides, the report found that a majority (80%) were young adult males and 42% were aged between 18-34 years. Nearly one-third of the suspects were also Indigenous, the CDC says. And, over 60% of victims knew the suspect in their homicides.

The epidemic of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) has been spoken about quite a bit this week across news outlets, thanks to the first White House Tribal Nations Summit to be held since 2016, which took place Nov. 15-16. November also happens to be the designated Native American Heritage month. 

During the two-day summit earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed a legislation titled: “Improving Public Safety and Criminal Justice for Native Americans and Addressing the Crisis of Missing or Murdered Indigenous People.” Biden also announced the launch of five new initiatives aimed at addressing public safety among, and protection of, Indigenous persons at the summit.

On Thursday, the CDC said homicide was the fifth leading cause of death in 2019 for AI/AN males and the seventh leading cause of death for AI/AN females ages 1–54 years. AI/AN people also have reported high levels of intimate partner violence, including physical or sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm by a current or former intimate partner or spouse.

American Indian and Alaska Native people also experience higher rates of adverse childhood experiences, such as child abuse and neglect and family and community violence, putting AI/AN people at further risk for other forms of violence, such as homicide, the CDC said. “The risk factors for violence are compounded by historical (war, loss of land, language, access to traditional ways, and cultural identity), intergenerational (child and elder abuse and neglect), and ongoing (racism and structural inequities) traumas,” it added.

On Tuesday, Nov. 16 the Department of the Interior (DOI) announced the creation of a new Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC), which formally establishes a mechanism for Tribal leaders to engage in routine and robust conversations directly with DOI Secretary Deb Haaland. There have been initiatives aimed at addressing the MMIP crisis in the past too.

The Presidential Task Force on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives, also known as Operation Lady Justice, was established in 2019. In 2020, Savanna’s Act was passed to increase federal governmental agency coordination to reduce violent crimes within tribal lands and against AI/AN people. The Not Invisible Act directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review, revise, and develop law enforcement and justice protocols to address MMIP.