Tennessee: 8th in the US for African American Homicide

Today the Violence Policy Center released its annual Black Homicide Victimization report that examines the problem of black homicide victimization at the state level. According to the report, Tennessee is ranked 8th in the nation for African American homicides.  Tennessee’s rate of black homicide was 28.41 per 100,000, significantly higher than the US rate of 20.44. For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 87 percent of victims were shot and killed with guns. The majority of victims were killed by someone they knew and 60 percent involved arguments between the victim and the offender.

“These numbers are appalling, but unfortunately, they’re not surprising,” said Beth Joslin Roth, Policy Director for The Safe Tennessee Project. “We study gun violence in Tennessee and have tried to bring attention to the alarming trends that we are seeing. Tennessee is 11th in the nation for firearm mortality and 7th for firearm homicide. Instead of investing in community-based programs and implementing gun law reforms that make illegal guns harder to obtain, our state inexplicably continues to loosen gun laws and has shown no interest supporting community groups working in impacted communities.”

Tennessee continues to outpace U.S. averages in every gun violence category, from mortality, to homicide to domestic violence homicide.

“Based on the daily toll of gun violence that we see, we know that future reports will again place us in the top ten states,” Roth said.

The Violence Policy Report is an analysis of 2016 data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Report. Memphis, which consistently has a higher homicide rate than Chicago, broke a homicide record in 2016. Nashville and Knoxville both broke homicide records in 2017.

“This report highlights the urgent duality of America’s inability to take action to stem tides of gun related injury and death,” said Dr. Jonathan Metzl, Vanderbilt University professor and Safe Tennessee Project Research Director. “We know with ever-greater precision how weak gun laws, an over-abundance of firearms, and cycles of violence and poverty lead to disproportionate levels of suffering in minority communities.  Yet this increased knowledge is matched by the near complete political failure to do anything about it, save upending common-sense gun regulations and making it ever-easier to flood minority communities with ever-more guns.”

From the Violence Policy Center Black Homicide Victimization report analyzing 2016 data:

There were 323 black homicide victims in Tennessee in 2016.

The homicide rate among black victims in Indiana was 28.41 per 100,000 in 2016.

Ranked 8th in the United States


Twenty homicide victims (6 percent) were less than 18 years old and 6 victims (2 percent) were 65 years of age or older. The average age was 31 years old.

Out of 323 homicide victims, 276 were male and 47 were female.

Most Common Weapons 

For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 87 percent of victims (254 out of 291) were shot and killed with guns. Of these, 48 percent (122 victims) were killed with handguns. There were 122 victims killed with firearms, type not stated. There were 23 victims killed with knives or other cutting instruments, 7 victims killed by bodily force, and 6 victims killed by a blunt object.

Victim/Offender Relationship
For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 74 percent of victims (139 out of 188) were killed by someone they knew. Forty-nine victims were killed by strangers.

For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 75 percent (114 out of 151) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 60 percent (68 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.