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Dallas County gun death rate highest in state

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 41.1 gun deaths per 100,000 people, Dallas County has the highest rate of gun deaths in the state – the report states that Dallas County averages 16 gun deaths per year among a population of 40,812.

By contrast, Lauderdale County, which has a population of 92,669, has the lowest rate of gun deaths in the state, with 12 gun deaths per year and 11.9 per 100,000 people.

For his part, Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson contends that, despite the county’s ranking, things are moving in the right direction.

“The murder rate has dramatically dropped this year as compared to the last few years,” Jackson said. “That has been a joint effort between my office, the federal agencies, the state agencies and local agencies.”

Jackson noted that those stakeholders have been meeting regularly to discuss the issue of gun violence in the area and that a task force, comprised of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Jackson’s own Drug Task Force, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) and others, has been actively working to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of gang members.

The collaboration has resulted in numerous arrests for firearms-related charges

“They’re being arrested for those charges and it’s made a huge difference,” Jackson said. “A lot of the gang kingpins are locked up right now.”

And citizens are noticing, Jackson said as he noted that “99 out of 100 people” can see the improvement.

“You don’t hear all the gunfire on the streets like you used to,” Jackson said. “People are starting to feel safe about walking around at night and that’s a good thing. A few years ago, Selma was named one of the most hateful, dangerous cities in the country – we’re not on that list anymore and we want to keep off of that list. It’s not a perfect situation, because you still have gunfire around here, but it’s a much better situation.”

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.