Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders had a marked effect on many types of crime in 2020. With people indoors, less crime was committed. But what effect has COVID had on gun violence, specifically, in major cities?
In a new paper, researchers dove into crime data in major U.S. cities and discovered COVID lockdowns didn’t seem to have any effect on gun violence.
From the paper:
For the heavily populated cities of NY, Chicago and Baltimore, there is a paradoxical trend of increased gun related violence in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We offer several possible explanations.According to a report from the US Department of Labor, there has been a surge in number of unemployment claims during the pandemic.With an increasing number of people unemployed, it is possible that the chances of becoming involved in a gun related incident correlates with the amount of time spent outside of the workplace. Another explanation is that as people with low socioeconomic status become unemployed and experience tremendous financial stress, they may resort to robbery for income, which is reflected in the increased robbery rates in NY (22.4%) and Chicago (10%) compared to 2019.Another possible explanation for the increased gun violence is the increased sale and consumption of alcohol during this time period. Previous studies have shown that alcohol increases risk-taking behavior and probability of being in an altercation, and committing violent crimesThe implications of this data are that social distancing and stay-at-home orders may not decrease the rates of gun violence; in fact, the coronavirus pandemic is associated with increased rates. While multiple factors likely influence the rising number of gun incidents, unemployment, increased alcohol consumption, and increased firearm purchases are possible contributing factors. We recommend more thorough data collection and investigation as to what factors are most heavily influencing the higher rates of gun incidents in order to innovate long-term solutions to decrease gun related injuries/deaths across the United States and contribute to a safer, healthier society after the resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.