While the rise of violent crimes in the United States over the last two years has been attributed to such factors as pandemic lockdowns and the race riots of 2020, some on the Left have attempted to instead blame the rising trends on an increase in legal gun sales.
Fox News reports that a New York Times article made this argument on April 17th, which pointed out that “Americans bought a record number of guns in recent years.” While acknowledging the lockdowns and race riots as factors, the Times zeroed in on gun sales as the predominant reason for violence, claiming that “the guns that Americans bought remain in circulation,” even as “COVID cases have plummeted and lockdowns have ended.”
But experts from the Heritage Foundation refuted these claims, with Charles Stimson breaking down the trends of violent crime and gun ownership over the last three decades.
“For the last 27, 29 years, our country has had a dramatic decrease in violent crime. Violent crime peaked in 1992-93, and it has been on the wane ever since then — until recently,” Stimson said in an interview with Fox. “That and that alone rebuts their argument that increased legal gun ownership has contributed to this spike in crime. What, they didn’t do it for 30 years? Even though they bought tens of millions of guns between 92 and now.”
Responding to a similar claim from The Atlantic, Heritage’s Amy Swearer stated that “the short answer is that there is absolutely no statistical evidence to that effect showing some causal relationship” between gun purchases and a rise in violent crime.
Swearer pointed to a trend that has been documented in recent years by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), known as “time-to-crime guns,” in reference to the amount of time that passes between the first purchase of a gun and that gun’s subsequent recovery at the scene of a crime. Although Swearer noted that “the overall number of short ‘time-to-crime’ guns traced increased in 2020,” the size of the increase was not abnormal, and “the overall percentage did not” change based on this trend.
Other experts reaffirmed that the greater causes of violence were the societal impacts of lockdowns, including the rise in depression, isolation, and anxiety that were caused by these restrictions on everyday life.
Dr. Garen Wintemute, of the University of California Davis’s Violence Prevention Research Program, determined that researchers have “concluded that unemployment, economic disparity and physical distancing exacerbated by the pandemic were far more potent predictors of increased violence” than gun sales.