Before the COVID-19 pandemic, America has been experiencing gun-related homicides. However, the rate went up in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gun-related homicide increased by 35 percent. It is the highest rate America has ever recorded.
“Mass shootings that already have national attention need addressing, but it is not the only form of gun violence,” says criminal defense attorney Ryan McPhie. Other forms of gun violence kill people every day all across the nation. They include gun-related suicides, accidental shootings, and interpersonal confrontations that become deadly because of easy access to firearms. All these are life-threatening issues, and addressing them will indeed improve the safety of everyone.
Possible Causes of Gun-Related Homicides During the Pandemic
Many possible factors contributed to the sudden increase in gun-related homicides in America during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The following are some of these factors:
#1. Many Not Coping Well With the Impact of the Pandemic
The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak played a significant role in the increase of gun-related homicides. During COVID-19, there were so many disruptions in so many areas like social activities, education, and means of livelihood.
People had to stay indoors to avoid the spread of the virus. As a result, many lost their jobs, and people stopped going to school. The social lives of people were greatly affected. Cinemas, clubs, bars, and other entertainment establishments were also closed to avoid the virus spreading.
The stress took a toll on individuals. Many without jobs resorted to robbery, which entails shooting in most cases. Others, due to building frustrations, began becoming violent at home which in many cases, unfortunately, also led to gun-related homicides.
#2. Increased Gun Sales
In 2020, there was a rush in the purchase of guns by Americans. The gun purchase even extended into 2021, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reporting a record of 1.2 million background checks in one week.
Furthermore, the main reason people admitted to buying these guns was for self-protection as there was a rise in so many crimes during this period. Why? Well, police officers who are known to always intervene during crimes had to also isolate themselves from the public to avoid the virus spreading.
Consequently, possessing a gun in the house contributed to so many cases of gun-related homicides. Which included gun-related suicides, people accidentally shooting family members during heated arguments, and children accidentally shooting themselves or others.
People Most Affected By Gun-Related Homicide
In 2020, black Americans were significantly affected by gun violence. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of Black people killed by guns raised by 39.5 percent, to 11,904 people.
According to the Johns Hopkins study, in 2020, black men within the age bracket of 15 to 34 made up 38 percent of all gun homicide victims. Thus, accounting for two percent of the United States population.
Their gun homicide rate was about 21 times greater than white males in the same age bracket. However, while many of these victims were young men, deaths related to guns in black women also climbed significantly, but with a lower increase.
Reducing Gun-Related Homicide
The rate at which gun-related homicide is increasing in the United States is causing unrest among the citizens. However, there is a need to focus on the following areas to reduce the rate of gun deaths:
#1. The Root Cause of Gun Violence
There are so many underlying causes of gun violence. Due to unemployment opportunities, some youth cannot afford to buy things they need, rent a house or buy food. Frustration and desperation set in and can lure them into robbery, which may end up resulting in gun violence.
Furthermore, there are also school dropouts because their parents cannot afford to send them to school. Out of idleness, they may join gangs. Gangs are another avenue where people commit gun-related crimes and other violent crimes.
Therefore, identifying the root cause of why people commit a crime will go a long way in reducing gun-related homicides and other violent crimes. Thus, the government should focus on identifying these groups of people and help them in every possible way. They can do this by creating scholarship programs and providing more employment opportunities.
#2. Easy Access to Guns
When people have easy access to guns, they can use them to commit crimes. They can mistakenly shoot someone during heated confrontations or commit suicide. Thus, there is a need to limit people’s access to guns by implementing universal background checks and licensing in every state.
#3. The Universal Background Check and Gun Licensing
All gun sales and transfers must be subject to universal background checks. With universal background checks in place, It will be difficult for prohibited buyers to obtain guns. Thus, making background checks compulsory for all gun sales will help reduce gun trafficking hence limiting everyone from having access to firearms.
When conducted through a gun licensing system, universal background checks become successful. Under the gun licensing system, also known as permit-to-purchase laws, people must get a license or permit before buying a gun.
These rules differ by state but may include an in-person application, safety training, fingerprinting, and a waiting period with a background check. According to studies, these regulations reduce gun-related homicides and gun trafficking. However, states should pass licensing rules and monitor and assess them regularly to guarantee equal implementation.
Microstamping technology stamps a microscopic identification code on bullet cartridge casings when someone shoots a gun. These codes match the serial number of the firearm. Thus, this allows law enforcement to link cartridges found at crime scenes to the gun that shot them without the gun retrieval.
Furthermore, microstamping has the potential to assist law enforcement in solving crimes, breaking violent cycles, and preventing future shootings. When people see law enforcement catching crime offenders through this means, they may have a re-think before firing that shot. Thus, in new semi-automatic guns, microstamping should be compulsory.
Gun-related homicide is a public crisis in America that needs resolving for the safety of everyone. It can be achievable by focusing on the underlying causes of gun violence and high-risk gun users. However, the government can implement so many initiatives to tackle these areas.