Let’s Not Fight Fear with Firearms

Death and injury caused by gun violence and shooting threats increased during the pandemic.

a graph of a number of events

Read Time: 2 minutes


It is March 2020 and the CDC has just announced that COVID-19 is a global pandemic. You grab your things from your office when you are told to go home. Streets and grocery stores shelves are empty within a day. Life has become uncertain. What’s coming next? As unemployment rises are you going to need to protect yourself? Will you need a gun to do so?

With the hope of buying safety and security during unprecedented times, people all over the United States ran to purchase guns after the national emergency was announced. Researchers estimate that 2.6 million firearms were purchased during March 2020 alone. This is over a million more guns than were sold in March 2019.

The central reason for gun purchase offered was to feel safer. But this increase of guns in homes and communities actually increased the risk of gun violence and accidental injury.

Shengzhi Sun and colleagues analyzed national data from the Gun Violence Archive to measure differences in firearm violence before and during the pandemic. The investigators looked at death and injury caused by gun violence and shooting threats.

The graph shows firearm-related violence between January 2016 and February 2021. The yellow shaded section of the graph represents the first year of the pandemic. During this period, there was an increase in gun-related incidents, including non-fatal injuries and deaths.

More than 4,000 excess deaths due to firearm violence were documented during the first year of the pandemic, an increase of 28% from the prior year. Non-fatal injuries also increased.

During times of uncertainty and insecurity, people look to protect themselves. But fighting fear with firearms can lead to more accidents and deaths in homes and communities.

Databyte via Sun, Shengzhi et al. Analysis of Firearm Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US. JAMA Network Open. April 2022