While most of us hate the term “gun violence” as it seemingly tries to blame the gun for the violence, it’s still the standard term when talking about violence committed with a firearm. It’s the term we use so everyone understands we’re talking about a particular subset of violence.
Guns are also quite effective at messing up a human being when used against them. It’s why they’re used in war and for people who need to protect themselves from attackers who might be bigger and stronger than they are.
In the era of COVID-19, however, the offensive use of firearms just makes things even worse than usual.
The coronavirus pandemic is at present so monumental it has the ability to overshadow everything else — including pressing problems that already exist. In Philadelphia, that includes gun violence. According to data from the Philadelphia Police Department, in the four weeks ending March 22, almost all crime categories — including overall violent crime — saw large declines compared with the prior four weeks. An exception is shootings, which have risen 22%, to 106, in the last four weeks.
The bitter irony is that social distancing required by the coronavirus has the potential to make gun violence more deadly — not just because it limits violence interventions, but because it forces gun-wound victims to compete with COVID-19 patients for essential health services.
COVID-19 is imposing serious demands on units of blood, ventilators, and personal protective gear for health-care workers. Treating gun victims requires a lot of blood, a product in short supply due to canceled drives. Similarly, gun victims are at high risk of needing ventilators. Trauma surgeon Mark Seamon says that in his hospital, Penn Presbyterian, there are 5 to 15 gun-wound patients on ventilators at any given moment.
Of course, those are ventilators not available for COVID-19 patients.
Many will look at this and think this just proves we need gun control. However, I’ll note that there’s nothing in these stories to suggest that these are people who will be impacted by gun control laws in the first place.
To me, this looks more like evidence that those who are dedicated to taking a person’s life are people who aren’t likely to self-isolate during a pandemic. These are people who are likely not even worrying about social distancing–forget “violence interventions” for a moment. You’re not likely to go all Jackie Chan and stop a gun-wielding attacker with your sick Karate moves, so let’s stop pretending that’s actually an option–these are people who will likely kill regardless of the rules in place.
In fact, is it any wonder that more law-abiding people are buying guns right now? It shouldn’t be.
Now, the overall point that gun violence doesn’t help anyone during the outbreak is valid. It draws resources from sick patients and sick patients draw resources from potential shooting victims.
What needs to be understood, though, is that when talking about this kind of thing, we’re also talking about people who see that as a feature, not a bug.