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Firearm homicides reached historic high nationwide during first year of the pandemic, CDC data shows

Local law enforcement and community leaders say they are not surprised as they continue to witness an increase in guns and violent crimes across San Antonio.

SAN ANTONIO — In a teleconference Tuesday morning, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced new data that revealed a nearly 35% increase in the firearm homicide rate from 2019 to 2020. The CDC said this resulted in the highest firearm homicide rate in more than 25 years. 

In 2020, guns were involved in 59% of homicides and 53% of suicides. 

"These numbers are striking when you think about the number of lives that are behind them," said Debra E. Houry, director of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 

The disturbing trends also widened disparities by race, ethnicity, and poverty level. The CDC reports the largest increases happened among Black males 10-44 years-old and American Indian or Alaska Native males 25-44 years old. 

"Anecdotally speaking as a cop of 29 years with a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in my community, absolutely we’re seeing it," said Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar. :There’s definitely a trend upward and I think it’s a sharp trend upward." 

Salazar said gun related incidents are happening more frequently this year, even in cases where they typically did not see guns involved in the past. 

"It's pretty common to see burglaries of vehicles...but recently, we're seeing car burglars that aren't just car burglars anymore," said Salazar. "They’re walking around literally with a gun in their hand as they’re committing burglaries and it’s probably a gun they took from a burglary of vehicle just within a few minutes or hours." 

The uptick in violent crimes prompted Salazar to seek help from county commissioners. 

RELATED: BCSO asks for more deputies and investigators after 'increase in violent crime'

"While I fully realize that putting a cop on every street corner is not necessarily gonna be able to prevent crime, I can do my best," he said. 

During the CDC's press conference Tuesday, Houry also said "these findings underscore the importance of comprehensive approaches that can stop violence now and prevent future deaths." The CDC pointed towards temporary housing assistance, child care subsidies, tax credits, housing assistance, and livable wages to address family poverty and other risk factors for homicides. 

They also suggested community driven intervention, which Pastor JonDavid De Leon is no stranger to. 

"We believe in prayer we reach out with prayer, we reach out with relationships, building relationships with them," he said. De Leon and his church, City of God Worship, do most of their outreach work on the city's east side, where he says gun violence has been on the rise for the last couple of years. 

"Its an ongoing battle but we know that there’s hope," he said. 

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