Murders aren't the only deaths that have spiked since COVID

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

In the simplistic world that gun control advocates live in, the rise in violent crime and homicides seen in cities across the United States since 2020 can be blamed on one thing: guns. Sales of firearms soared in the early months of the pandemic and so did violent crime, so the former must be responsible for the latter. And their answer, of course, is to crack down on our Second Amendment rights, because the gun control lobby still fundamentally believes that more guns equates to more crime.

Will that prohibitionary impulse carry over when it comes to other causes of death that also saw massive spikes during COVID? Is a revival of the Women’s Christian Temperance League imminent? Is the Anti-Saloon League ready for a comeback? Will Shannon Watts channel the spirit of Carrie Nation and start swinging axes at containers of boxed wine in an attempt to target the deadly contents inside? And if not, then why not? After all, according to a new study there were far more deaths attributable to alcohol than firearms in 2020.

Numerous reports have suggested that Americans drank more to cope with the stress of the pandemic. Binge drinking increased, as did emergency room visits for alcohol withdrawal. But the new report found that the number of alcohol-related deaths, including from liver disease and accidents, soared, rising to 99,017 in 2020, up from 78,927 the previous year — an increase of 25 percent in the number of deaths in one year.

That compares with an average annual increase of 3.6 percent in alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2019. Deaths started inching up in recent years, but increased only 5 percent between 2018 and 2019.

99-thousand alcohol-related deaths in 2020, compared to about 44-thousand gun-related deaths in the same year; a figure that includes homicides, accidents, and suicides (which account for more than half of all gun-related deaths).

Violent crime, by the way, declined by about 33 percent percent between 1999 and 2019, and the nation’s homicide rate dropped from 5.7 to 5.0 during the same time period. Given the increase in gun owners during that same time period, the “more guns equals more crime” hypothesis of the gun control lobby has already been thoroughly debunked by the data, but that hasn’t stopped the gun control lobby from pressing forward with its prohibitionist aims.

No one, however, seriously believes that the nearly 100-thousand alcohol-related deaths in 2020 is going to lead to a new Prohibition movement in the United States. Even Dr. Aaron Wright, the chief author of the new study on alcohol-related deaths, isn’t calling for the intoxicating beverage equivalent of gun control.

Total alcohol sales in the United States by volume increased by 2.9 percent in 2020 over the previous year, the greatest annual increase in sales since 1968, Dr. White said.

He called for new approaches to addiction that teach people to cope with stress in a more productive manner.

“We are entering an era in public health where we are talking more about promoting wellness and building resilient people,” he said. “What we are doing now is not sufficient. We need to help people live meaningful purpose-filled lives.”

The same mindset prevails on the left when it comes to drug overdose deaths, which were even higher in 2020 than the number of alcohol-related deaths. Most of the drugs that Americans are overdosing on are already illegal for them to possess, but there’s no shortage of Democrats from California to New York who are actively ignoring those laws and providing places for addicts to shoot up under “supervision.” In fact, in San Francisco and New York City it’s now easier to find a place to shoot up heroin than it is to shoot your legally-owned handgun, as bizarre as that sounds.

If Democrats don’t think that prohibition is the answer to addressing the 200,000 drug and alcohol-related deaths in the United States, then they should explain why they’re so solidly in favor of deploying that strategy in the name of addressing the 44,000 lives lost to “gun violence.” I doubt any of them could come up with a coherent response, but I’d love to hear them try.

While we’re all waiting for that to happen, maybe the media and politicians could also start to pay more attention to the fact that nearly five times as many Americans are dying from drug and alcohol-related causes than by someone pulling the trigger of a gun. I don’t believe that we can ban our way to safety, whether we’re talking about booze or boomsticks, but I believe these figures help demonstrate the real crisis in mental health services we have in this country; a crisis that won’t be addressed as long as the gun control lobby and their Democratic allies insist we’re (always) just one more gun law away from real safety.