Gun Violence in a Time of COVID

COVID-19 and efforts to contain its spread have affected almost all aspects of our daily lives over the last year. Risks for crime and violence are no different. Early during the pandemic reports emerged of increased incidence of gun violence in some US cities, even while incidence of home invasions and other property crime decreased. At the same time, the nation has faced a collective reckoning with the systemic racism following the killing of unarmed black man, George Floyd, by an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department. Protests against police brutality and structural violence may have also contributed to the increase in gun violence.

Dr. Christopher Morrison, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, and colleagues attempted to disentangle the effects of COVID-19 containment policies and the protests following George Floyd’s killing on gun violence in Philadelphia. In a research letter published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, they used comprehensive data on shootings collected by the Philadelphia Police Department in a time series design. The authors identified that the best fitting statistical model included a gradual increase in gun violence that coincided with the beginning of COVID-19 containment policies. The protests following George Floyd’s killing were not independently related to increases in gun violence.

A devastating reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the disease itself and the steps we have taken to reduce its spread most greatly affect the least advantaged among us. And it has long been the case that gun violence concentrates in disadvantaged areas and among disadvantaged populations, including, particularly, young black men. It is perhaps no surprise that these enormous structural problems combined to further exacerbate enduring health inequities.

Time series of shootings in Philadelphia

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