Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

1 in 5 Americans knows a gun violence victim; 4 in 10 worry about becoming one

Gun Buyback - 4

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

TEC-9 handguns, pictured above, were recovered in Los Angeles at a recent gun buyback organized by the LAPD. A new poll suggests that 75 percent of Latinos and 62 percent of black people worry about becoming a victim of gun violence.

One in five Americans knows a victim of gun violence, according to a new survey, and 42 percent worry about becoming one.

That's according to a new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, which added that among survey respondents who said they knew a victim, more than 60 percent said that victim was a family member, good friend – or that they themselves were the victim.

Among the groups most likely to know a victim of gun violence:

  • Black people: 42 percent reported knowing one.
  • People between 18 and 29 years old: 28 percent.
  • Residents of an urban area: 24 percent.

Pollsters also measured people's worry about being a victim of gun violence. More than four in 10 Americans worry about that, suggested the poll, and breaking down the numbers shows that's even higher in some groups:

  • Latinos: 75 percent of respondents said they're at least somewhat worried about being a gun violence victim.
  • Black people: 62 percent.
  • People whose household annual income is less than $40,000: 54 percent. 
  • People who know a victim of gun violence: 52 percent.
  • People who don't live in a gun-owning household: 51 percent.

The group that's least worried about gun violence? Folks who live in gun-owning households, just 24 percent of whom reported worrying about it.

Kaiser takes care to "keep this concern in context," though, noting that while 42 percent of Americans may worry about gun violence, considerably more worry about not being able to afford health care (58 percent) and someone close to them getting a serious illness (75 percent). There's a big "but" to that, though, wrote the authors:

But this ranking is driven by gun violence being a significantly lower concern among whites. Among both blacks and Hispanics, concern about gun violence ranks a close second, behind only concerns about becoming seriously ill, and evenly tied with concerns about affordability of health care.

The latest report on mortality in L.A. County shows that homicide is the second-leading cause of premature death in South Los Angeles. It's also the only region of the county where homicide is the leading cause of premature death among men. Overall, L.A. County's homicide death rate is about seven deaths for every 100,000 people; in South L.A., that death rate jumps to 17 per 100,000 people.

Although the report doesn't break down how those homicides occur, the director of the county's Department of Public Health, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, highlighted one cause in particular in the report's introduction.

"Violence, particularly gun violence, is a leading cause of premature mortality especially for black and Hispanic men, and disproportionately affects communities of lower socioeconomic status," he wrote.

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