Pennsylvania ranks third in the United States in the rate of black murder victims, according to an analysis released today by the Violence Policy Center.


The report analyzes FBI data from 2009, the most recent data available. In Pennsylvania, there were 28.3 black homicide victims per 100,000 people. The only states with higher rates were Missouri at 34.72 and Michigan with a rate of 30.21.


Last year, Pennsylvania ranked second on the list with a rate of 31.05. As in previous years, most of the homicides from the 2009 data were a result of guns. In Pennsylvania, of the homicides where the weapon could be determined, 85 percent of black victims were killed with guns.


"Every year, nearly 1,200 Pennsylvanians lose their lives to gun violence. Almost half of those deaths are murders," Max Nacheman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, said in a news release. "We know that many of those murders are committed by someone using an illegal gun. This study by the VPC only gives greater depth to those terrible statistics, uncovering evidence to show that entire communities are being devastated by gun violence.


"It's no mystery where these guns are coming from--theft, straw-purchases, trafficking. It takes proactive measures to tackle these sources. If we can reduce the supply of illegal guns we can reduce the number of lives lost each year to gun violence."


Additional findings on Pennsylvania from the study:

-- For homicides involving black victims for which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 83 percent of black victims (159 out of 191) were murdered by someone they knew. Thirty-two victims were killed by strangers.

-- For homicides involving black victims for which the circumstances could be identified, 60 percent (166 out of 278) were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 92 percent (152 homicides) involved arguments between the victim and the offender.

For the entire UNITED STATES, the study found that in 2009:

-- There were 6,505 black homicide victims in the United States. Of these, 5,576 were male, and 928 were female. In one case the gender of the victim was unknown.

-- The homicide rate for black victims in the United States was 17.90 per 100,000. In comparison, the overall national homicide rate was 4.76 per 100,000 and the national homicide rate for whites was 2.92 per 100,000.