Each year, approximately 38,383 people die by guns. Buried in that stat, gun control organization Everytown is reporting a new figure: 20, the number of transgender homicides the country would have seen the last three years if guns were taken out the equation. Instead, trans communities are grappling with 77 on-record murders over the last three years.
For the first in its five-year history, Everytown is tracking transgender murders in its gun violence statistics in an effort to understand how gun violence is impacting some of the most vulnerable LGBTQ people. Three out of four of transgender homicides since 2017 were gun deaths, they’ve found.
“Transgender violence is a gun violence issue,” says Sarah Burd-Sharps director of research at Everytown. “There's little research on guns and transgender communities. So, we really wanted to raise awareness of this issue and of hate crimes motivated by a victim’s gender identity and of the role that guns play.”
Everytown tracked the 77 on-record transgender homicides starting in January 2017 and found that 82% of trans gun victims were black trans women. Those numbers offer fresh insight into violence facing transgender people. While advocates have long tracked the elevated rates of violence against black trans women, there is little data that explores the source of that violence.
Last year, GLAAD mapped all of the country’s transgender homicides going back to 2015 and found that almost no trans people had been murdered in the mountain western region of the country.
“I think as someone who has been collecting this data and looking at it mostly on spreadsheets for close to a decade, this was the first time where I’ve seen the visual impact of multiple years,” Sue Yacka-Bible, then-communications director at GLAAD, told INTO last year.
One questions advocates had after looking at that map was whether or not gun deaths had an overlap. The Everytown analysis is the first affirmation that they do.
Burd-Sharps says trans murder rates involving guns (74%) are almost identical to the national average of murders involving guns, which is 73%.
“The numbers [of trans homicides we can draw from] are small, so it's hard to really study rigorously,” says Burd-Sharps. “But there seems to be a pattern and a relationship between states with very lax gun laws and and levels of gun homicide, gun suicide, and also trans homicides.”
The organization also found that transgender homicides followed national gun violence patterns geographically. Florida and Texas top the list for transgender homicides over the last three years with nine and 11, respectively. They also rank high for gun murders overall in the nation. States like Rhode Island, which only had 162 firearm murders, didn’t report a single trans murder during that time.
But it’s not a perfect science, points out Burd-Sharps.
“You need to know the proportion of transgender people who live in those states,” she says.
According to data from the Williams Institute at the UCLA, Florida and Texas boast some of the highest populations of known transgender people in the country (100,300 and 125,350 trans adults, respectively); New York has 78,600 trans residents. It has seen four trans murders in three years, but with 1,926 gun murders, Everytown reports New York has one of the lowest rates of gun violence in the nation.the nation.
“I would say that trans people tend to go to places where there are trans communities because they feel safer in numbers and there are larger trans communities on the coast than there are in some of the states,” says Burd-Sharps. “The tragedy is that when these trans communities experience one of these homicides, it's the death of one person, but it also has a ripple effect on the entire community of fear.”