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Surging gun violence not linked to increase in gun sales, study finds

Wall of rifles at a gun store. (Michael Saechang/Flickr)
July 09, 2021

Surging gun violence in the United States over the last year is not linked to record-breaking firearms sales, according to a study published Monday in Injury Epidemiology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

“We estimated that there were 4.3 million excess firearm purchases nationally from March through July 2020 and a total of 4075 more firearm injuries than expected from April through July,” the study found. “Nationwide, firearm purchasing and firearm violence increased substantially during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic. At the state level, the magnitude of the increase in purchasing was not associated with the magnitude of the increase in firearm violence.”

Julia Schleimer, lead author of the study, said the results suggest “we need to be looking at other factors, like job loss, economic change, the closure of schools and community organizations and nonprofits, and civil unrest” in order to better understand the spike in gun violence seen in 2020.

There may be a connection between increasing firearm sales and more gun injuries from domestic violence incidents in April and May, but the correlation could be attributed to other factors, like rising substance abuse and reduced access to domestic violence support services as a result of government lockdowns that were implemented during the pandemic.

Still, lawmakers in a number of states and at the federal level have taken the stance that harsher gun control policies are the way to stop rising gun crime.

On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for gun violence, marking the first of its kind ever enacted in the United States, the governor’s office said.

According to Cuomo’s office, the emergency declaration invests almost $140 million in intervention, prevention and jobs programs. It also establishes the Office of Gun Violence Prevention to “coordinate efforts and direct resources to emerging gun violence hot spots” and creates a new state police gun trafficking unit to stem the flow of illegal firearms into New York.

President Joe Biden has also focused on access to firearms to combat gun crime, calling for new gun control laws. Earlier this year, Biden announced several measures that were later enacted by the Department of Justice, including regulations on pistol braces and a federal model for state “red flag” gun confiscation laws.

“Today we’re taking steps to confront not just the gun crisis, but what is actually a public health crisis,” Biden said from the White House Rose Garden in April while announcing the new gun-control policies. “Nothing, nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment.”