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Study: 2020 Gun Sales Not Linked to Rise in Gun Crime

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The violent crime spike in 2020 was not fueled by increased gun sales, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis looked at monthly firearm purchasing data and gun violence rates to determine if there was a relationship between the two during the early months of the pandemic. They found “no association between state-level excess firearm purchasing and non-domestic firearm violence.”

“Results from the present study generally do not support an association between an acute pandemic-related increase in firearm purchasing and firearm violence at the state level,” the authors concluded.

The findings may complicate efforts by President Joe Biden (D.) to institute new gun-control measures. He has made cracking down on gun dealers a major focus of his plan to address rising rates of violent crime in the country, and his nominee to head the ATF mocked gun purchasers early on during the pandemic.

The study relied on monthly data from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to approximate firearms purchases and data from the Gun Violence Archive to track documented instances of “intentional, interpersonal violence (i.e., assault) with 1 or more shots fired and 1 or more persons killed or injured.”

The researchers did find some evidence that linked domestic gun violence with increased firearm purchasing but noted that other factors were also likely at play.

“There was an association between firearm purchasing and domestic firearm violence in April and May,” they said. “These were the months when physical distancing was at its peak, indicating that risk for domestic firearm violence associated with excess firearm purchasing may have been exacerbated by increased time spent at home and in the context of pandemic-related stressors.”

Pandemic-related stressors included increased substance abuse and the disruption of domestic violence intervention services in the early months of the lockdown, according to the authors.

The authors noted that even though they did not find a statistically significant relationship between increased gun sales and rising gun violence at the state level, their models estimated the trend of increased gun violence to continue. They suggested further research should be conducted.

“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 researchers said.


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