By David Geller, CPCU, SCLA
While a lack of public gatherings (schools, concerts, parties) certainly helps mitigate the possibility of mass shootings, gun violence still looms as an issue during COVID-19. After all, Axios notes that victims of shootings are in their homes 61% of the time.
According to Axios, in March 2020, when COVID-19 tightened its grip on the U.S., the following trends emerged pertaining to gun sales:
- A record 3.7 million gun background checks were processed by the FBI.
- Since the National Instant Criminal Background Check System was established in 1998, five of the top ten days with the largest volume of background checks conducted took place in March 2020 (as of April 1, 2020).
- The only month on record with higher gun sales in the U.S. was in January 2013, which was a month after the Sandy Hook shooting (the New York Times notes that, historically speaking, “[f]ears of gun-buying restrictions has been the main driver of spikes in gun sales.”)
Furthermore, Axios also reports that there has been a rise in first-time buyers during the crisis, which has reportedly triggered concerns of accidental injuries from inexperienced gun owners as individuals—and their children—are confined to their homes for such a long period of time. The Hill notes that there are around 500 unintentional gun deaths and 20,000 unintentional gun injuries on an annual basis.
Additionally, FiveThirtyEight states that “[f]irearm ownership is tied to a greater chance of domestic homicide”, which is noteworthy given a report from the New York Times that domestic violence is surging around the world during this outbreak: France, for example, has reported a 30% increase in domestic violence.
While the U.S. is, for the most part, roughly two months into this abrupt shift to a quarantined lifestyle, some statistics are bearing out these concerns. Axios has reported that nearly 2,100 Americans died due to gun violence between March 1st and April 19th, a 6% higher rate than the same period in the past three years. The article also notes that the treatment of gun victims in underserved neighborhoods, which was already a difficult task, is further complicated by the fact that some of these regions are suffering from some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates.
While current crowd restrictions that are extended during this summer may diminish the opportunity for horrific mass shooting episodes, it may be worth monitoring to see if this spike in more concentrated gun-related deaths continues; Axios notes that the number of shootings typically increases in the summer time.