A basis for Democratic claims about gun control is that limiting the number of guns Americans own makes people safer because the more guns people own, the less safe everyone else becomes.
A new study undercuts that claim, saying that connecting those dots might be great rhetoric but it is bad logic.
The study, published in the journal Injury Epidemiology, noted 2020 brought a massive increase in gun purchases and gun violence.
However, “the magnitude of the increase in purchasing at the state-level did not explain the magnitude of the increase in non-domestic firearm violence,” the study said.
The study noted that in the first two months of pandemic lockdowns, there was a spike in gun-related domestic violence incidents, but ascribed that more to the impact of lockdowns than gun purchases.
“[W]e need to be looking at other factors, like job loss, economic change, the closure of schools and community organizations and nonprofits, and civil unrest” to understand the increase in gun violence last year, said Julia Schleimer, lead author of the study, according to The Guardian.
“There are a lot of strategies that can address some of the more social determinants of violence,” she said, adding that gun violence is correlated with poverty. “There’s some good evidence on youth summer job programs and young people’s risk for violence.”
The study estimated 4.3 million guns were purchased nationwide from March through July 2020 over and above expected trends and there was a 27 percent increase in injuries and deaths from gun violence, but researchers “found no association between state-level excess firearm purchasing and non-domestic firearm violence.”
She said she was well aware the increase in gun violence and the spike in gun purchases are being linked by some politicians.
“Our findings, from this current study, in this particular context, are not supporting that,” Schleimer said.
Last week, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared gun violence a public health emergency and sought to crack down on gun ownership.
“We went from one epidemic to another epidemic,” he said, according to NPR. “We went from COVID to the epidemic of gun violence.”
However, Schleimer said context is essential.
“Last year was such a unique year in many ways, and the context was continually evolving, and there were a lot of factors changing all at once, both locally and at the state level and nationally in the context of the pandemic and social and civil unrest,” she said. “That really complicated what we were able to do analytically.”
The study noted last summer “was far from typical, with increases in anxiety, grief, substance use, economic strain, disruptions to daily routines, high-profile instances of police brutality, and a national mobilization against systemic racism, which was accompanied by civil unrest.”
“Each of these factors may act alone or in combination to increase firearm violence, such that the contribution of firearm purchasing in this context was not statistically detectable,” the study said.
“The current study suggests the importance of other contributing factors to the pandemic-related increase in firearm violence and the need for additional research. For example, future research should examine the relationships between violence during the pandemic and job loss and economic support policies; physical distancing and the closure of schools and community organizations; neighborhood social disorganization; civil unrest; and changes to policing,” the study said.
Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy, spoke to The Guardian about the difference between those who carry guns legally and those who do not.
“Data from Chicago and some other cities suggest that we have seen a sharp increase in illegal gun carrying,” he said. “The role that guns are playing in the increased levels of homicides may have more to do with increases in illegal gun carrying than with the number of incidents in which people buy guns legally, especially in the short-term.”
“In places and among individuals who are particularly low risk, more guns may have little impact on rates of lethal violence, but in places and among individuals of high risk, gun ownership can greatly increase risks of lethal violence,” he said.
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