ST. LOUIS — Missouri ranked second in the nation for the rate of black homicides in 2007, a national nonprofit group said Tuesday.
The Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center said Missouri's 235 black homicide victims during that year — the last for which FBI data were available — translated to a rate of 34.82 per 100,000 black residents.
The nonprofit center, which works to stop death and injury from firearms through research, advocacy and education, said it found handguns and other firearms were most often used in the homicides.
Missouri was second to Pennsylvania, which had a rate of 36.36 per 100,000. Indiana was No. 3 with a 30.89 rate, followed by Nevada and Wisconsin tied at 29.83.
The national homicide rate for blacks was 20.86 per 100,000 in 2007.
Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the policy center, said the disproportionate effect of guns on blacks has been an "ongoing silent crisis."
"We as a nation have decided it's more important to protect gun manufacturers and follow the leadership of the NRA than to allow communities to take action to protect citizens, and this is the end result," Sugarmann said.
The National Rifle Association did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Sugarmann said one of the aims of the report is to spark debate about reducing gun violence. He added that states with urban centers and lax gun laws tend to rank highest.
He said cities with gun problems that want more restrictions cannot pass laws tougher than the state standard.
"In Missouri, there's a low standard," he said. "You love guns."
A 2003 Missouri law allows residents to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons if they are at least 23 years old, have no felony convictions and pass a firearms training course and background check. That law also bars concealed weapons in certain places, such as schools, public hospitals and stadiums.
The Second Amendment Coalition of Missouri, whose Web site says it promotes the benefits of gun ownership, did not return an e-mail seeking comment.