There is no clear connection between the sharp rise in firearm sales last year and the near equal increase in gun-related homicides, according to a new study published in Injury Epidemiology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
Julia Schleimer, the lead author of the study, told The Guardian that the findings suggest that "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 determine what caused last year’s increase in gun violence.
The study is contrary to the conventional wisdom touted by a number of politicians, such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who have blamed the boost in homicides on the increase in gun sales, with Cuomo even signing legislation that would permit victims of gun violence to sue firearms manufacturers, according to Axios.
This connection is based on estimates by researchers at the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis that there were 4.3 million more firearm purchases above expected trends from March through July 2020 and a 27% rise in firearm injuries over roughly the same time period.
The only possible connection the new study found was to an increase in domestic gun violence injuries during the first two months of the pandemic, when lockdowns were most severe, but its evaluations found no other links to the increase in both violence and buying guns.
The researchers said that one reason for this is that most of the excess gun purchases were by those who already owned firearms, which should have lessened their impact on rising homicide rates.
Axios also points out that making any kind of connections based on available facts is difficult, because national data on homicides from last year is still currently unclear at this point, and there is no conclusive database on gun purchases or who owns firearms in the United States.
Schleimer conceded that it made sense that politicians and others would cite the surge in gun buying last year as a potential reason shootings had gone up, but stressed to The Guardian that "Our findings, from this current study, in this particular context, are not supporting that."
Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy Director Daniel Webster added that the study, which used "rigorous statistical methods," raised interesting questions about whether the boost in gun violence might be more closely connected to the willingness by some Americans during the pandemic to carry guns they already owned rather than due to an increase in first-time gun buyers.
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