With Philadelphia on a pace to surpass last year’s 406 homicides, officials say while shootings overall are down, the proportion of homicides caused by gunfire is up, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Through May 18, guns caused 87 percent – 133 – of the 153 homicides. About two-thirds of homicides nationwide are committed with firearms, says the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. “It’s alarming,” Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. said of the 87 percent rate of homicides by firearms. Police have pointed to several possible factors, including a proliferation of semiautomatic weapons, often capable of firing .357-Magnum, .40-caliber and .45-caliber rounds. “Bigger bullets cause more damage,” said homicide commander Capt. Michael Costello.
Police do not keep statistics on the calibers and type of handguns used in crimes. Overall, much remains the same about murder in Philadelphia. The victims mostly are black men ages 18 to 40. All 39 black men in the 18-to-25 age group were killed by gunfire, while firearms were used in the slayings of 36 of the 37 in the second age group. The motives more often than not are drugs, robbery and disputes, sometimes over simple slights. The youngest homicide victim was 1 (weapon: hands), and the oldest was 84, shot by her son in an apparent murder-suicide.