Law And Order

According to Fox News and other Republican sources, America is experiencing a crime wave. Actually, we aren’t. What we are experiencing is a rise in homicides–almost entirely as a result of gun violence.

As a recent Guardian article explained: homicides were up across the US in 2020 and appeared to be primarily driven by rising gun violence. Other crimes, however, fell.

A preliminary government estimate shows a 25% single-year increase in killings in 2020. In some larger cities, the number of homicides has remained higher than usual through the early months of 2021.

While official national crime data will not be released for months, some trends are clear. The 2020 homicide increase happened across cities and towns of all sizes, from those with fewer than 10,000 residents to those with more than a million, according to preliminary FBI data.

The rise in homicides likely translated into an additional 4,000 to 5,000 people killed across the country compared with the year before, according to early estimates.

The increase in murder comes as robberies declined more than 10%, and rapes declined 14%. Overall, violent crime increased 3%. The obvious question is: why? Why is murder up while overall crime is down? And how worried should we be?

Some context is helpful: even with the rising homicide rates, Americans are safer than we have been historically.

And yet, even after an estimated 25% single-year increase in homicides, Americans overall are much less likely to be killed today than they were in the 1990s, and the homicide rate across big cities is still close to half what it was a quarter century ago.

New York City saw more than 2,200 killings in a single year in 1990, compared with 468 last year, according to city data. In the bigger picture, that’s a nearly 80% decrease.

Los Angeles saw more than 1,000 homicides a year in the early 1990s, compared with fewer than 350 last year.

Furthermore, the article quotes one scholar of crime for the observation that the increases in homicide are taking place in neighborhoods where homicides have traditionally been concentrated. The incidence is not spreading out.

The pandemic has clearly contributed.

There is some evidence that national factors, including the many stresses and disruptions of the pandemic, may have played a role in the 2020 homicide increase. The uptick was “widespread,” Rosenfeld said. In an analysis of big city crime trends for the nonprofit Council on Criminal Justice, “We found very few cities that did not experience pretty significant rises in homicide during 2020,” he said.

Whatever researchers ultimately determine, it is impossible to ignore the effect of America’s gun culture and the sheer number of weapons owned by our citizens.

A preprint study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggested that a spike in gun purchases during the early months of the pandemic was associated with a nearly 8% increase in gun violence from March through May, or 776 additional fatal and nonfatal shooting injuries nationwide. The researchers found that states that had lower levels of violent crime pre-Covid saw a stronger connection between additional gun purchases and more gun violence.

There has been a predictable effort to attribute the rise in homicides to criticisms of police, or to unrest blamed on Black Lives Matter, but the data simply doesn’t support those accusations.

Some police officials and their allies have asserted that last summer’s big, volatile protests against police violence diverted police resources and attention away from their normal patrols, and have suggested that demoralized, angry police officers might be less proactive or effective in dealing with violent crime.

But Jeff Asher, a crime analyst who writes extensively about homicide trends, examined 60 cities and found no correlation between the number of Black Lives Matter protests, and the size of a city’s homicide increase.

Rosenfeld cautioned that any policing-focused explanation for the homicide increase needed to explain why the change would have only affected serious and deadly violence.

“Most crime is down, including most felony, serious crime,” he said. “If the de-policing argument is correct, why did it only affect an uptick in violence and not other street crime?”

At this point, the stresses of the pandemic, especially on low-income neighborhoods, appear to be a significant cause of hostility and despair and “acting out.” But the easy availability of guns clearly was–and continues to be–an enormous factor.

I’ll believe Americans seriously want to reduce violence and homicides when we get serious about gun control. But I’m not holding my breath…


  1. From “The Trace”

    In a landmark study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993, researchers found that having a gun in the home was linked with nearly three times higher odds that someone would be killed at home by a family member or intimate acquaintance. Studies using more recent data have come to the same conclusion. In a 2019 study, researchers found that states with high levels of household gun ownership have more domestic gun homicides than other states do. In fact, the quartile of states with the highest rates of gun ownership have 65 percent more domestic gun homicides than the quartile with the least, which is worrisome considering that domestic violence has worsened during the coronavirus outbreak.

  2. Most crimes are down primarily because we have been on lock down for a year. There is far more worry about being around others and committing small crimes and more reasons for taking out our actions during this last year. There are far more people running traffic lights according to studies also. Access to guns as being the problem is true, but those that havent been taught to respect or are prone to criminal activity are the problem. Homocides are a way of acting out, and the teaching of victimhood gives people a greater excuse to act violently especially during a lock down. You cant say there isn’t a correlation directly? People are being taught to disrespect others for various reasons whether its the color of skin or disparity in society.
    Black and hispanic neighborhoods where less police patrols are taking place becoming more vulnerable due to homocide crimes. Is Defunding the police is causing a shortage? Cops are supposedly retiring earlier now.
    Here is another article giving an explanation for the rise in crime
    Politicians accross this country were calling for defunding the police. Some Police officers are giving accounts of being followed and when they pull those following them over the cops are being told we can do whatever we want to you now. Society is being told cops are the problem and officers are not actively pursuing the same beats as its becoming more hazardous.
    People are acting out, half of the population has an IQ of less than 100. We can stay behind closed doors and ignore what others do in their jobs or we can be supportive by supplying them with better training snd methods to handle crime. Who is going to remove these excess guns? You can write all the laws you want but unless you have the manpower and intelligence to know which guns are illegal the supply of guns to criminals wont slow down.

  3. Indianapolis is heading for its THIRD year with historic numbers of murders, the vast majority being due to guns. We don’t see the statistics about the survivors whose lives have been disrupted, many permanently disabled, and the economic cost to families trying to survive the aftermath of these attacks.

    During President Obama’s last year in office he made a trip to Chicago; one of the primary issues which took him to that city was their high numbers of gun deaths and other crimes. When asked for his views during a press conference, he responded that more than 50% of weapons confiscated from all crimes in Chicago had been purchased in Indiana due to our lax gun laws. Among the lowest gun laws in the country. Police cannot confiscate weapons which those who should never be allowed to purchase, have purchased them legally.

    My Uncle Don Davis, of Don’s Guns, lobbied for years to get the same background checks on all long guns as the state of Indiana had on handguns. When Indiana lowered the requirements to purchase handguns and left the purchase of long guns open, he returned to his business of selling and made a few more million before his death. He could have been sued for refusing to sell to questionable or unsavory customers for violating their civil rights. Whether you consider Uncle Don right or wrong; he was acting within the law…as are those who walk in off the streets to purchase weapons.

    I support the right to purchase weapons for self-protection, hunting or collectors but the ability to purchase should have reasonable requirements as guidelines.

  4. In retrospect are we saying that the supply of of guns has a direct correlation to crimes increasing in this society? Im not looking for the studies that show different countries thst have differentvtechniques or different cultural values with less guns have lowe homocide rates. Im looking for a correlation in our country where an increase in guns household to household increases guns. More guns are sold the more restrictions you put on guns and the more you take away their policing. There is a direct correlation to that. The fact that we are no longer teaching moral lessons in schools unless it teaches about the unfair conditions of disparity, social justice or gender equality, may be a problem as our children are now being taught by our schools what is moral instead of the parents teaching them.
    On a side note, Cuban immigrants warn us of how societies are changed as capitalists fled from Cuba. They talk about how guns were heavily restricted, businesses were not just regulated but taken over by the government. Opportunities left that island as the Russian backed government thugs took over. This os the mindset if some. So how do we change neighborhoods. By not burning down down black neighborhoods with protests. Its been a bad year for the black neighborhoods and politicians are mire worried about their power than they are about reaching into neighborhoods with solutions.

  5. The great thing about guns is that they make it so easy to kill. Yes, it is so much more effective than using a knife or a frying pan. Why would any red blooded, gun loving American ever want to use anything else? (Now debating internally whether to label this as satire, just so those red blooded gun lovers understand guns are bad.)

  6. Peggy, exactly right. That is my fundamental issue with firearms, as well. How many family crises end with death due to easy access to guns, which wouldn’t otherwise? How many suicides from guns? How many simple accidents? Simply, it should never be that easy to kill.

  7. There are two issues that Indianapolis news outlets refuse to investigate. One is climate change, and the other is gun control. NEVER is there a follow-up news story to a shooting that looks into how the killer got the gun. Just as there is no utterance of the words “climate change” or “global warming” a part of the daily weather report.
    You can’t fix a problem if you refuse to acknowledge that it is there.

  8. Despite the far right’s apparently blowing the issue out of all proper proportion, for the sake of agenda, rather than truth, what he’s been happening is tragic.
    “While official national crime data will not be released for months, some trends are clear. The 2020 homicide increase happened across cities and towns of all sizes, from those with fewer than 10,000 residents to those with more than a million, according to preliminary FBI data.”
    I wonder whether, or not, the smaller towns, and cities, cited in the quote, themselves, had especially increased rates of homicide, also, whether, or not the rates of increase were especially greater in “red” as opposed to “blue” areas. Yes, I have a bias, but,in itself, that does not mean that the result thereof is mistaken or wrong. Though,it certainly could be.
    John S., the country has always had that same level of intelligence, I expect. It is a thing that Pres. Eisenhower was famously surprised to learn.
    We have the pandemic, broadly, to point at as a probable cause of the increased homicide rate, but no-one has made mention of the encouraging and enabling, of hate, and violence, due to the former POTUS’ words and expressions; words, body language; angry, hateful, facial contortions as he has addressed his adoring minions.

  9. I’m so against being the cause of ending the miracle of life, any life, that I have to accept complete hypocrisy in order to eat meat. I say “miracle” in the scientific sense, just an amazing bit of chemistry and physics in arranging the particles that everything is made from, in ways that create sentient mobile self-sustaining independence.

    Also, I have never been in a threatening situation. I recognize that the odds of that changing are not zero but are certainly low.

    A gun to me is a relic of different times and conditions.

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that there are different situations in which different people find themselves that justify owning a gun. However, being that prepared for what should be a complete surprise seems unlikely and very lucky to me.

    My conclusion is that those who find themselves in situations where a gun is the tool most favorable to them must very often be the cause of their predicament, and take some pleasure out of surviving no matter the expense to others.

    Me surviving at the expense of others is the ultimate power.

    Therefore, in my mind, guns are a symbol of life or death power, like swasticas were and what was on display at our Capitol on Jan 6 of this year are.

  10. Any time there is a recession, crime increases. What was not mentioned today was the increase in domestic violence due to the pandemic. I wonder how many of the homicides were due to domestic violence? How many were committed by white people versus black on black, latino on latino?

    There is no doubt in my mind that not requiring a license for a hand gun and the severe lack of mental health services will increase the number of suicides by guns in Indiana, probably homicides as well.

    The practice of nursing is a privilege not a right. So, that’s why there are FBI criminal background checks done on all graduate nursing students wishing to take the NCLEX in Indiana. And if they do not also do this on graduate medical students, there’s a double standard. ( I don’t know if they do.}Too bad we did not make gun ownership by citizens not in the military or national guard a privilege, not a right. Maybe then we’d be serious about ensuring criminal background checks on anyone who wants to purchase any gun.

    The extreme focus on individualism in this country has led to more gun violence and less of a social safety net. It’s too bad we are not more communal like the democratic socialist countries in Scandanavia. I wonder if they have a lot of gun violence or gun ownership. Maybe when people have secure housing, food, clothing, health care, and enducation, there is less violence.

    And as a retired substance use counselor, I wonder if violence would decrease if each person had easy access to high quality substance use treatment centers. St. Vincent’s cut 90% of its mental health and addiction treatment services in 2003 because “it was not profitable.” This demonstrates system stigma against people with addiction. That stigma contributes to drug related violence.

    In order to reduce gun violence, we need not only good background checks on each person who wants to buy again, we need a better social safety net and easier access to treatment for mental illness and substance use.

  11. We not only need gun control with some teeth to it, but teaching anger management and the understanding that people are allowed to have divergent opinions would be extremelhy helpful also.

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