In 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, America recorded its highest number of gun-related deaths since the government started collecting gun-related data.
According to a C.D.C. report released in early May 2022, the total number of gun-related homicides in 2020 was 19,350, representing a 35 percent increase from 2019. The previous high was in 1993, with 18,253 gun-related homicides on record.
Minorities Disproportionately Affected
This increase occurred across all demographics. Black, non-Hispanic males 10 and 44 years old were disproportionately affected. The report also indicated a correlation between poverty and gun-related deaths, with impoverished areas recording relatively higher rates than other areas.
However, homicides were not the only gun-related deaths that increased in 2020. There was also a 1.4 percent increase in suicide cases involving firearms, which accounted for over 24,200 deaths in the year. The highest increase in gun-related suicide cases occurred among Alaska Native and American Indian populations, with a 41.8 percent increase.
Reports Not Focused On Causes
According to the authors of the C.D.C. report, the data alone is insufficient to explain the cause of the uptick in gun-related deaths. However, they noted proper policy implementation could help reduce gun-related deaths. The authors pointed to various initiatives that could help reverse the trends, such as affordable housing, tax credits, and greening initiatives.
The prevalence of guns in America makes it somewhat challenging to make a clear comparison of gun-related deaths in other countries. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime data showed that most countries saw a reduction in gun-related violence at the early stages of the pandemic. However, some countries such as Spain, Kazakhstan, and South Africa saw increased gun-related violence in the final months of 2020.
Divided Opinions On Possible Causes
There is a great divide among the advocates for and against gun control, with both sides citing different reasons for the surge in deaths. According to gun-control advocates, the prevalence of guns in America is to blame for the spike.
“The problem will never disappear as long as we do not implement better gun control policies. It’s way too easy to access a firearm,” says criminal defense attorney Jay Ruane.
As soon as the government declared a state of emergency and states started issuing stay-at-home directives, there was a massive surge in the number of Americans purchasing guns. According to F.B.I. data, there were over 40 million background check requests from licensed gun dealers, a 40 percent increase from the previous year.
2020 May Not Be An Isolated Case
While 2021 reports on gun-related deaths may not be out yet, preliminary data and data collected from emergency rooms in 10 states show that the trend may continue. Provisional figures indicate over 17,000 gun-related homicides and 20,000 gun-related suicides from January to October 2021, which suggests that this year’s data may even be grimmer than in 2020.
Gun rights advocates blamed the policies implemented by the Biden administration as reasons for the surge. Some blamed the abolition of cash bails, early release of criminals, and calls to defund the police for the spike in gun deaths.
Whatever the reason for the spike, the increase in gun-related deaths is cause for alarm in the U.S.