CDC tries to tie rise in gun-related homicides to increased gun sales

CDC tries to tie rise in gun-related homicides to increased gun sales
AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

Gun owners and Second Amendment activists have been warning that the CDC’s supposedly non-partisan research into “gun violence”, which most recently kicked off in 2020 after Congress approved more than $12-million in grand funding, was going to look a lot like gun control, and based on the agency’s latest report, they had good cause to be concerned. The CDC is out with new data showing a 35% increase in “gun-related homicides” between 2019 and 2020; a phenomenon that they say was driven at least in part by a surge in gun sales.

Federal officials and outside experts are not certain what caused the surge in gun deaths. The rise corresponded to accelerated sales of firearms as the pandemic spread and lockdowns became the norm, the C.D.C. noted.

But federal researchers also cited increased social, economic and psychological stressors; disruptions in routine health care; tension between police and community members following George Floyd’s murder; a rise in domestic violence; inequitable access to health care; and longstanding systemic racism that contributes to poor housing conditions, limited educational opportunities and high poverty rates.

I noticed one thing that didn’t make the list of reasons for the spike in gun-related homicides, even though its effects have been widely documented. A large number of criminal defendants have had their cases either pushed back or dismissed outright because of the havoc wreaked on our criminal justice system by COVID.

Prosecutors in Chicago are pleading out or dismissing cases to help shrink the courts’ backlog. And in Oakland,Calif., they’ve had to dismiss old cases amid an uptick in violent crime, Alameda County District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley announced in June.

… “Without a substantial change, we are facing the very real possibility that it could take more than three years before some violent crimes make their way to trial and even longer for homicide cases,” Spencer Merriweather, the D.A. in Mecklenburg County, N.C., said earlier this year.

… New Mexico Auditor Brian Colón, who is running for state attorney general in 2022, tells Axiosthat some experts believe the backlog actuallycontributed to recent jumps in crime in urban areas like Albuquerque.

  • “If folks are not being held responsible for crimes they commit, and there are no consequences, you’re going to have an increase in activity.”

Now, why wouldn’t the CDC want to talk about the impact that the CDC’s guidance on COVID protocols might have had on our crime spike? It’s a mystery, isn’t it?

Another reason to doubt the CDC’s assertion that more gun sales led to more gun-related murders is that the agency saw no similar spike involving guns and suicide between 2019 and 2020. Given that most guns used in crimes aren’t legally owned to begin with, it makes no sense that a surge in lawful gun sales would result in a spike in violent crimes but have no impact on individuals with suicidal ideation. In fact, given the stressors that we were all under in 2020, and the fact that both drug and alcohol overdose death rates increased by more than 25% between 2019 and 2020, I would honestly have expected gun-involved suicides to have gone up as well whether or not gun sales spiked, but the CDC says there was no “significant increase” to be found.

There’s no real reason to believe that legal gun sales had anything to do with the rise in violent crime, and even the CDC was careful to include that as just one of many other factors that they say could be responsible. Given the fact that they’re downplaying the role that their own guidance may have played in the increase in violent crime while promoting (with little evidence) the idea that more gun sales had a substantial impact, however, I think it’s fair to call the CDC’s supposed non-partisanship into question here.

Sadly, we can expect a lot more of the same from the agency in the months ahead. After Congress gave the CDC some $12.5-million to conduct research into “gun violence” in 2020, they doubled the amount of grant money available in 2021, which means there’s likely to be a whole lot of junk disguised as science coming out of the agency in the not-too-distant future.