More Gun Sales May Have Contributed to America's Murder Spike

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  john-russell  •  2 weeks ago  •  44 comments

By:   Jeff Asher, Rob Arthur (The Atlantic)

More Gun Sales May Have Contributed to America's Murder Spike
A massive increase in gun sales in early 2020 seems to have contributed to the recent rise in homicides.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



A massive increase in gun sales in early 2020 seems to have contributed to the recent rise in homicides.

By Jeff Asher and Rob Arthur Education Images / Getty January 10, 2022Share

About the authors: Jeff Asher is a crime analyst based in New Orleans and co-founder of AH Datalytics.Rob Arthur is a freelance journalist and data scientist.

After murders in the United States soared to more than 21,000 in 2020, researchers began searching for a definitive explanation why. Many factors may have contributed, such as a pandemic-driven loss of social programs and societal and policing changes after George Floyd's murder. But one hypothesis is simpler, and perhaps has significant explanatory power: A massive increase in gun sales in early 2020 led to additional murders.

New data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) suggest that that indeed may have been the case. According to the data, newly purchased weapons found their way into crimes much more quickly and often last year than in prior years. That seems to point to a definitive conclusion—that new guns led to more murders—but the data set cannot prove that just yet.

The ATF data are the result of tracing nearly 400,000 firearms in 2020. According to the bureau, firearms are traced only "at the request of a law enforcement agency engaged in a bona fide criminal investigation where a firearm has been used or is suspected to have been used in a crime." Not all guns recovered by law enforcement are traced, and many guns that are used in crimes are never recovered by law enforcement to begin with. But the ATF's data are the most robust source available for evaluating the increased use of firearms in the United States in 2020.

What's most startling in these new data is the degree to which firearms purchased in 2020 featured in crimes committed in 2020. The ATF's data set includes a measure known as the "time to crime" of each gun traced—the time from when a firearm was legally purchased to when it was recovered after a crime. On this metric, an enormous shift is apparent: The number of traced guns whose time to crime was a year or more increased by less than 1 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, but the number of guns whose time to crime was six months or less increased by 90 percent.

Prior years looked quite different. Only about 13 percent of guns traced from 2015 to 2019 were recovered within six months of purchase. In 2020, 23 percent were. In total, the average time to crime fell from 8.3 years in 2019 to seven years in 2020, and just about half of the guns traced in 2020 crimes were purchased three or more years prior to recovery, compared with more than 70 percent a decade ago. Moreover, states with greater upticks in gun background checks—meaning more purchases of new guns—also saw greater increases in new guns recovered in and traced to crimes. All told, what this reveals is that guns used in crimes in 2020 were newer than in the past. Additionally, more guns were recovered in 2020 than in 2019 across a host of crimes. "You do see these guns ending up in risky situations more quickly than in the past," says Aaron Chalfin, a criminology professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Source: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

No data exist on exactly how many guns were sold in 2020. The best proxy is the number of firearm background checks performed by the FBI, which indicates an attempted purchase but doesn't necessarily mean a completed one. These background checks surged dramatically in 2020, first when coronavirus cases began to appear in the U.S. and again after Floyd's murder at the end of May. Background checks remained remarkably high for the first few months of 2021 but came down a bit during the second half of the year.

Source: FBI

As clear as the link between new guns and gun violence appears, the difficulty comes in trying to show a connection to the rise in homicides specifically, as the ATF's data do not enable the sort of precision researchers would need to confirm that link.

The ATF's data do not specify time to crime for the subset of firearms that were recovered in homicides; everything is grouped together and cannot be disaggregated. As a result, there's no way to say for certain that newly purchased guns helped fuel the homicide spike. Less than 3 percent of the guns traced in the 2020 data set were connected to homicides. Moreover, there is no discernible relationship between where the murder rate rose in 2020 and where more new firearms were recovered and traced: States with large increases in firearm recoveries were no more likely to see an increase in murder than states with small increases in firearm recoveries. Ultimately, more granular data would be needed to answer with perfect confidence the crucial question of whether new guns lead to more homicides, but there is also no reason to suspect that guns used in homicides differ significantly from guns used in other kinds of crimes.

The ATF's data are kludgy in part because of legal limitations, specifically a law known as the Tiahrt Amendment. "The Tiahrt Amendment is basically a law that says the ATF cannot provide gun-level trace data to anyone other than the police," says Cassandra Crifasi, a researcher of gun-violence prevention and policy at Johns Hopkins University. "What that means is that researchers are restricted to the sort of high-level reports that ATF puts out. So we have no idea if the guns used in crime were used by the person who purchased it or if it was diverted to someone else." In the former case, laws such as waiting periods and stronger licensure requirements may prevent people who commit crimes from being able to purchase guns; in the latter, more organized anti-trafficking efforts may be needed to dissuade gun buyers from funneling weapons into secondary marketplaces.

But Crifasi and other researchers believe that the ATF could still provide better data, such as the average time-to-crime numbers by crime type. However, the ATF has so far declined to share those numbers, including in response to a formal Freedom of Information Act request. "Honestly, I think they could release more," says Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy. "But I think institutionally they just want to … limit everything," he added, noting that the ATF is hamstrung by a lack of resources and pressure from gun-rights-focused lobbyists and members of Congress.

Right now, we know that gun sales rose dramatically starting in March 2020, and that murder—driven by gun murders—increased substantially a few months later. We have strong evidence that more people were carrying guns before murder went up in 2020, and the ATF data tell us that newly purchased firearms were used in more crimes than usual. It stands to reason that new guns helped feed 2020's murder surge, though the data to confirm this conclusion remain agonizingly out of reach. The data aren't perfect, but they're strongly suggestive: More guns are behind America's murder spike.


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JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    2 weeks ago
Right now, we know that gun sales rose dramatically starting in March 2020, and that murder—driven by gun murders—increased substantially a few months later. We have strong evidence that more people were carrying guns before murder went up in 2020, and the ATF data tell us that newly purchased firearms were used in more crimes than usual. It stands to reason that new guns helped feed 2020's murder surge, though the data to confirm this conclusion remain agonizingly out of reach. The data aren't perfect, but they're strongly suggestive: More guns are behind America's murder spike.
 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Guide
1.1  Greg Jones  replied to  JohnRussell @1    2 weeks ago

Biden and the Democrats have consistently shown that they care little about the soaring crimes rates in the cities and towns they manage. Most people buy them for protection, but everyday criminals can easily get them on the street.

They turn a blind eye to left wing mobs like Antifa and BLM, but double down on responsible legal gun owners and cops who are forced to use lethal force, especially if the perp is a minority.  

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2  seeder  JohnRussell    2 weeks ago

It has been well known for a long time that the more guns there are in a given state the more gun deaths there will be. 

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Expert
2.1  Nowhere Man  replied to  JohnRussell @2    2 weeks ago

I'm sure it has nothing to do with Prosecutors refusing to do their jobs, judges refusing to put people in jail, politicians releasing violent offender back into the public to prey, not allowing the cops to do their jobs ... I'm sure is has absolutely NOTHING to do with ANY of that.... /s

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Sparty On  replied to  Nowhere Man @2.1    2 weeks ago

Bazinga!

 
 
 
Drakkonis
Masters Guide
2.1.2  Drakkonis  replied to  Nowhere Man @2.1    2 weeks ago

My brother had an idea for a political cartoon. Two identical frames consisting of a group of people, a police officer and a perp with a gun. In one frame, Leftists would be shouting to the police officer "Get the gun! Get the gun!" whereas those on the right would shout "Get the guy! Get the guy!" I thought this idea was brilliant and explained the difference between the right and the left concerning guns. 

To my mind, the left thinks guns create the violence. That's ridiculous. People create violence. Rather than address the problem, they choose to address the tools. 

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Masters Principal
2.2  Nerm_L  replied to  JohnRussell @2    2 weeks ago
It has been well known for a long time that the more guns there are in a given state the more gun deaths there will be.

And California leads the list on the number of homicides.  These 'correlation as causation' analyses always overlook more important factors.

More guns means more people to buy guns.  The more important correlation would be population density versus homicides.  The data dazzlers claim that homicide rates account for population density but that overlooks the fact that one homicide in a sparsely populated area dramatically increases the homicide rate.  One homicide in Minnesota would increase the homicide rate the equivalent of seven homicides in California.  One homicide in Alaska would increase the homicide rate the equivalent of 54 homicides in California.  Population density has a very large effect on the reported data and the correlations in that data.

It's also been well known that spikes in crime spur gun sales.  It's also been demonstrated that politicians pushing gun controls, particularly gun bans, directly causes large spikes in gun sales.

The prevalence of crime directly drives the data on criminal use of guns.  Where there is more crime there will be more guns used to commit crimes.  There are more crimes committed in areas of high population density.  And that means it's the people responsible for the crimes; not the guns.

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
2.2.1  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Nerm_L @2.2    2 weeks ago
And California leads the list on the number of homicides.  These 'correlation as causation' analyses always overlook more important factors.

Yes, and it seems that many turn a blind eye to the fact that the gun ownership laws in CA are some of the strictest... go figure.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Masters Principal
2.2.2  Nerm_L  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @2.2.1    2 weeks ago
Yes, and it seems that many turn a blind eye to the fact that the gun ownership laws in CA are some of the strictest... go figure.

A permissive attitude toward crime requires more stringent regulation on the tools of crime.  The idea that guns are the cause of crime really is associated with a more permissive attitude toward crime.

A permissive attitude toward crime is built upon the idea that people are not morally accountable for crimes they may commit.  The secularization of society is attempting to remove moral constraints and personal moral responsibility from society.  We no longer have strong institutions in society that educate people on morality and address moral issues in society.

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
2.2.3  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Nerm_L @2.2.2    2 weeks ago
A permissive attitude toward crime is built upon the idea that people are not morally accountable for crimes they may commit.  The secularization of society is attempting to remove moral constraints and personal moral responsibility from society.  We no longer have strong institutions in society that educate people on morality and address moral issues in society.

Precisely and it's sad.

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
2.3  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  JohnRussell @2    2 weeks ago

Gun related violence in Detroit in 1991 was far greater with fewer guns in law-abiding citizen hands than it is today with more guns in law-abiding citizen hands. Why is that? 

Monthly Crime Counts Pre and Post Supreme Court Heller Decision 1980-2015

800

Source:

I find it ironic that this paper came from California State University.

Hmmm... I just found some really interesting facts:

https://usafacts.org/state-of-the-union/crime/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ND-JusticeDefense&gclid=CjwKCAiAlfqOBhAeEiwAYi43F99XOeKtxS92ie0anK_AH7_4UBvoFRhHciEjFcDf9UUTZtLv3M9l6BoC1doQAvD_BwE##bigpicture

Here's a screenshot, but I rather found the different category possibilities rather interesting.

800

Hm. Kind of difficult to see it all in that screenshot. However, the overall premise is that comparing the 1990s to the 2000s, overall firearm crime rates are down and suicide rates are pretty close; as in, it's nearly a straight line.

These are stats from reputable sources and I've included the links.

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
2.3.1  Sparty On  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @2.3    2 weeks ago

Very problematic for the average anti gun nut

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
3  Sean Treacy    2 weeks ago

but the data set cannot prove that just yet

And there's no point in reading further....

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Expert
3.1  Nowhere Man  replied to  Sean Treacy @3    2 weeks ago

Of course there isn't, the FBI doesn't collect enough data to accurately state anything about gun violence.. According to Obama's gun study... The last one done... And no one has even proposed anything to correct that much less done anything...

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
4  Sparty On    2 weeks ago

Just one more irrational anti gun narrative attacking law abiding gun ownership.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
5  seeder  JohnRussell    2 weeks ago

Of course the word gun in a headline attracts the right to the defense of guns.  That is a given.

Nonetheless this is an interesting article with a persuasive premise. 

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
6  Sparty On    2 weeks ago

Of course the word “gun” in the title attracts the usual crazed anti gun looners from the left.

SOSDD .....

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
6.1  JBB  replied to  Sparty On @6    2 weeks ago

It is true ever more Americans with ever more guns killing ever more Americans with those guns is just more of the same old shit exactly as we expected!

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
6.1.1  Sparty On  replied to  JBB @6.1    2 weeks ago

Nah, what is true though is that more Americans are legally and safely owning guns in the USA than ever before.

The left is too brainwashed and stupid to admit where the real gun problem is.

 
 
 
Gazoo
Sophomore Silent
6.1.2  Gazoo  replied to  JBB @6.1    2 weeks ago

It’s also true that fentanyl overdose is the number 1 cause of death in people aged 18-45. Most of it comes through our porous southern border. Where is the concern about that? Where are the calls for tighter border security?

John, i realize this is off topic and if you want it deleted that’s fine. I do find it ironic the concern shown towards people using guns to kill while nothing is mentioned about drug overdose from drugs coming across our southern border, which would be much easier to slow than gun deaths.

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
6.1.3  Sparty On  replied to  Gazoo @6.1.2    2 weeks ago

Anti gun is a liberal narrative du jour.    the southern border and drugs are not.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Guide
6.1.4  Greg Jones  replied to  JBB @6.1    2 weeks ago

Especially in Democrat run big cities like Chicago.

 
 
 
JBB
Professor Principal
7  JBB    2 weeks ago

"SURPRISE SURPRISE SURPRISE" - Gohmer Pyle 

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Expert
8  Nowhere Man    2 weeks ago

You know John, trying to resurrect the old gun debate on the same basis as it was before is not only foolish, it is laughable... Obama said that gun control is DEAD in this country.. is an absolute fact until someone corrects the deficiencies in data collection...

Since that report where are the Brady group, Bloomberg? and the California anti-gun report writers? that report he orders and all those groups lauded, completely deflated the gun banners arguments....

That's the fact... Why not argue about creating facilities to collect the required info? wouldn't that be a better argument to make?

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Masters Participates
9  Jeremy Retired in NC    2 weeks ago
that new guns led to more murders—but the data set cannot prove that just yet.
No data exist on exactly how many guns were sold in 2020.

But the Atlantic ran the article anyway knowing full well it's chock full of incomplete information at best.  

 
 
 
Snuffy
Junior Participates
9.1  Snuffy  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @9    2 weeks ago

Well of course they ran it because they know their reader base loves this type of story which results in more clicks on their electronic side which keeps their advertisers happy which means more money for the Atlantic.  It doesn't have to have any truth in it to be a good thing for their bookkeeping department....

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
9.2  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @9    2 weeks ago
that new guns led to more murders—but the data set cannot prove that just yet.
No data exist on exactly how many guns were sold in 2020.
But the Atlantic ran the article anyway knowing full well it's chock full of incomplete information at best.  

Yes, well let's ask citizens of Chicago, where average, everyday citizens aren't supposed to carry pistols if it's cut down on their murder rates. Or NYC... or LA... 

Sadly, studies regarding this topic are all over the map and fully admit that they're missing pertinent information in most instances. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
9.2.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @9.2    2 weeks ago
Yes, well let's ask citizens of Chicago, where average, everyday citizens aren't supposed to carry pistols if it's cut down on their murder rates. Or NYC... or LA... 

That sentence makes no sense. 

But I guess you were trying to snark so that makes it ok.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Masters Participates
9.2.2  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @9.2    2 weeks ago
Yes, well let's ask citizens of Chicago, where average, everyday citizens aren't supposed to carry pistols if it's cut down on their murder rates. Or NYC... or LA... 

WTF are you talking about?  I make a comment about the article acknowledges having incomplete information (may as well call it misinformation) and you go off on a rant about Chicago?  

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
9.2.3  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @9.2.2    2 weeks ago
incomplete information (may as well call it misinformation)

incomplete information and misinformation are not the same thing. it depends on how well the reader can absorb and understand the information that is given. In this case there appears to be a connection between new gun sales and new murders. The reader can make of it what they will. 

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
9.2.4  Sparty On  replied to  JohnRussell @9.2.3    2 weeks ago
In this case there appears to be a connection between new gun sales and new murders.

And accord to the same article there appears to be a connection to many factors and yet it/you concentrates on guns only.

A clearly incomplete and obtuse analysis of the problem.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Masters Participates
9.2.5  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  JohnRussell @9.2.3    2 weeks ago
incomplete information and misinformation are not the same thing.

In this case, they are the same thing.  

In this case there appears to be a connection between new gun sales and new murders.

There APPEARS to be a connection.  Nothing factually connecting them.  Hence misinformation.

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
9.2.6  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @9.2.2    2 weeks ago

I'm in agreement with you regarding misinformation / incomplete information. It was more in regard of the new guns / more guns = more murder involving guns, which to me is an incorrect statement [and I KNOW it's not your statement] considering Chicago, NYC and LA having some of the most restricted gun laws.

I apologize for not being clearer.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Masters Participates
9.2.7  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @9.2.6    2 weeks ago

Ok.  I understand it now.  And it's a valid point.  They claim new guns on the street equates to more murders.  But cities like Chicago, LA and NYC have very restrictive laws, have been leaders in the body count despite all that.

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
9.2.8  Sparty On  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @9.2.7    2 weeks ago

They blame other states with less restrictive gun laws for that because they can’t handle their own population.    Or won’t.

Its pretty messed up logic.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Masters Participates
9.2.9  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Sparty On @9.2.8    2 weeks ago

It's the liberal / democrat logic.  That's the norm for them.  Hell, it's almost expected.

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
9.2.10  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Sparty On @9.2.8    2 weeks ago

Exactly. Wisconsin and Michigan are the reason Chicago is in the state it's in. NYC blames Pennsylvania. And California blames everyone else. Duh... didn't you know that states with less gun restrictions are the reasons for violence?

Makes me wonder why Vermont or Wyoming isn't being blamed though. J/K jrSmiley_86_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Snuffy
Junior Participates
9.2.11  Snuffy  replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @9.2.10    2 weeks ago

You just have to love the culture of victimhood..  it allows even states to be the victim.  

 
 
 
Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
9.2.12  Mark in Wyoming   replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @9.2.10    2 weeks ago

Wyoming doesnt exist , it is a mass mind control experiment controlled by those men in black suits from the 50s and 60s  with their neurolizers ...... people that say they have been there have had their minds altered ...

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
9.2.13  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Mark in Wyoming @9.2.12    2 weeks ago

jrSmiley_10_smiley_image.gif Is that why?

 
 
 
Mark in Wyoming
Professor Silent
9.2.14  Mark in Wyoming   replied to  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka) @9.2.13    2 weeks ago

yes , they just keep up the appearance it exists ....

 
 
 
MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)
Sophomore Principal
9.2.15  MsAubrey (aka Ahyoka)  replied to  Mark in Wyoming @9.2.14    2 weeks ago

You're too funny Mark. jrSmiley_91_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
Junior Expert
9.2.16  Nowhere Man  replied to  JohnRussell @9.2.3    2 weeks ago

Incomplete information is incomplete information... Misinformation on the other hand is extrapolating information from incomplete information and trying to claim it as fact...

Like the correlation your describing here...

Correlation is not causation, ESPECIALLY when there is insufficient information to relate the two items under comparison together...

Which makes the claim pure unadulterated bullshit...

 
 
 
squiggy
Sophomore Quiet
10  squiggy    2 weeks ago

"...laws such as waiting periods and stronger licensure requirements may prevent people who commit crimes from being able to purchase guns..."

They may. They absolutely do infringe a woman's right to protect herself - right now.

"So we have no idea if the guns used in crime were used by the person who purchased it or if it was diverted to someone else.""

So, this is really just churning mud.

"...attempted purchase but doesn't necessarily mean a completed one."

Because there is no realistic penalty for 'poor' Larry who 'forgot' and lied on a 4473. 

"Not all guns recovered by law enforcement are traced, and many guns that are used in crimes are never recovered by law enforcement to begin with."

Beyond that lame criterion is there even a definition of 'gun used in crime' or is a shooting the same as a gun under the car seat?

 
 

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