Were Strong Gun Sales to Blame for 2020’s Violence?

Were Strong Gun Sales to Blame for 2020’s Violence?

Gun sales in the U.S. exploded last year, first when the Covid-19 pandemic reached our shores and again when the death of George Floyd set off a wave of protests and violence in cities. Some commentators maintain that these sales in fact fueled the violence—a theory that fits nicely with some advocates’ preexisting priorities. President Biden and his team have been especially eager to turn the conversation about the abrupt crime spike into a conversation about guns and gun dealers . There have always been good reasons to doubt this narrative, and that’s even more true now that a study in Injury Prevention has failed to find a geographic link between the two phenomena, at least through July 2020. Even pre-pandemic, something like 400 million guns were in circulation in the United States, with strong sales growing the number every day. The “excess” sales surge from March through July 2020 amounted to about 1 percent of that. Even total gun sales through all of 2020 amounted to just 21 million, or roughly 5 percent of the preexisting stock. A 1 percent or 5 percent increase in the stock of guns is unlikely to set off a wave of violence like the one seen last year—including an estimated 25 percent increase in murders . Indeed, previous gun-sale spikes, often in response to the threat of new regulations, have had no such extreme effects. Further, those who buy new guns and those who use guns in crimes tend to be very […]

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