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PolitiFact VA: Black Virginians are disproportionately killed in gun homicides

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney speaks while standing at a podium
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney recently pushed back on the assertion that racism doesn't affect public health. He pointed to gun violence, which disproportionately harms Black Virginians, as one example of how race continues to shape people's health. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Speaker: Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney
Statement: “In Virginia, Black people are eight times (8X) more likely than white people to die of gun homicide.”
Date: June 16
Setting: Twitter

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney recently lashed out at State Health Commissioner Colin Greene for dismissing racism as a public health issue and characterizing gun violence as a “Democratic talking point.”

“It is offensive and severely out of touch to call ‘gun violence’ a Democratic talking point — especially when, on average, 1,065 people die by guns per year in Virginia,” Stoney tweeted on June 16.

“Moreover, according to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], firearms are the leading cause of death for children nationally, and in Virginia Black people are eight times more likely than white people to die of gun homicide. EIGHT TIMES,” Stoney wrote.

PolitiFact meter points to true

We fact-checked Stoney’s figure about the increased probability Black Virginians face of being murdered by a gun when compared to white people. His spokesperson pointed to research from the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety that indeed found Black people in Virginia were eight times more likely than white people to be victims of firearm homicides between 2016 to 2020. 

Everytown attributed the statistic and others in its report to the CDC. So, we went to the CDC’s national database of underlying causes of death to examine the numbers. Here’s what we found about Virginia from 2016 to 2020:

  • White people comprised 63% of Virginia’s population and Black people made up 20%.
  • There were 1,814 gun homicides, killing 1,269 Black people and 518 white people. In other words, 70% of victims were Black and 29% white.
  • Out of every 100,000 Black people living in Virginia, 14.3 were killed in a firearm homicide. Per 100,000 white Virginians, 1.7 were killed in that manner.
  • The firearm murder rate for Black people was 8.4 times higher than the rate for white people. Everytown accurately rounded down to eight times, the number Stoney used.
  •  
  • Nationally, Black people were 11.2 times more likely than white people to be murdered by firearms. The rates were 21.3 per 100,000 for Black people and 1.9 per 100,000 for white people.

The racial disparity is even wider among males, who were victims in 85% of U.S. firearm homicides from 2016 to 2020.

Nationally, 39.7 per 100,000 Black males were killed in gun homicides compared to 2.8 white males per 100,000. Black males were 14.2 times more likely to be murdered by firearms.

In Virginia, 26.1 per 100,000 Black males were gun homicide victims compared to 2.4 per 100,000 white males. Black males were 10.9 times more likely to be murdered by firearms.

In Richmond, 65.6 Black males per 100,000 were firearm homicide victims. The CDC does not have a corresponding figure for white males.

We should finally note that Greene, the health commissioner, has been roundly criticized for his comments, including by the person who appointed him: Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Greene has tempered his statements dismissing the role of structural racism in public health since they were first reported by The Washington Post on June 15.

Our ruling

Stoney said, “In Virginia, Black people are eight times (8X) more likely than white people to die of gun homicide.”

CDC figures show that 14.3 out of every 100,000 Black Virginians were killed in gun homicides from 2016 to 2020. The rate for white people was 1.7 per 100,000. In other words, Black people in Virginia were 8.4 times more likely than white people to be murdered by firearms.

A report cited by Stoney accurately rounded the figure down to eight times more likely. We rate Stoney’s statement True.

Sources

Levar Stoney, tweet, June 16, 2022
Phone text from Jim Nolan, Stoney’s press secretary, June 21, 2022
Everytown for Gun Control, “How does gun violence impact the communities you care about?” accessed June 21, 2022
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Underlying Cause of Death database, accessed June 21-22, 2022
The Washington Post, “Tension over role of racism in public health strains Va. agency under Youngkin,” June 15, 2022
The Washington Post, “Virginia public health chief expresses ‘regret’ in disrespecting staff,” June 18, 2022
City of Richmond Virginia, Crime incident information, accessed June 22, 2022