In a five-part series, the Baltimore Sun reports on why Baltimore is the one of the nation’s most-lethal cities. Around the U.S., people increasingly are shooting to kill. Criminals are stockpiling higher-caliber guns, many with extended magazines that hold more than 20 bullets. Police and hospitals are seeing more victims who have been shot in the head or shot repeatedly. Trauma doctors are finding it more difficult to save gunshot victims. In many places, if you get shot, you are more likely to die than ever before. In Baltimore, one of every three people struck by gunfire dies, up from one death in every four shootings the previous decade. Two cities in addition to Baltimore — Washington and New Orleans — shared the brutal distinction of one in three shootings ending in a homicide last year. In Chicago, one in 10 people died after being shot in 2000; now one in six perishes. Last year, the odds for gunshot victims worsened in at least 10 of the nation’s largest cities, The Sun found.
The Sun undertook a yearlong investigation into the rarely studied phenomenon of lethality, documenting patterns based on hundreds of crime statistics, hospital data and gun trace reports as well as interviews with police chiefs, homicide detectives, criminologists, medical experts, community activists, victims of gun violence, and the perpetrators themselves. Researchers said lethality is a significant part of the homicide equation, with implications for policing, public health, and trauma care. In-depth study has been hampered by a lack of statistics. Historically, gun violence research in the U.S. has been inhibited by a shortage of federal funding and data. Many police departments only track what they are required to report to the FBI, which doesn’t include how often people survive shootings, where on the body people are shot, and how many times.