In recent weeks, an increase in gun violence in cities has made national headlines. So, too, have politicians’ attempts to blame this increase on Black Lives Matter protests and gun safety laws.
In reality, the pandemic has exacerbated existing circumstances that contribute to America’s alarming rates of gun violence, particularly in Black and brown communities in American cities. Many cities saw increases in gun violence this year well before the protests started following the death of George Floyd.
As you plan your coverage, here are four myths about recent gun violence:
Myth #1: Recent protests have caused more gun violence.
The disproportionate impact of gun violence on cities existed long before recent protests against police violence, and it was exacerbated by COVID-19 before protests began as well. Recent gun violence is likely a result of a number of factors:
1) Lack of access to opportunity is a key driver of gun violence, and areas of concentrated disadvantage have borne the brunt of this economic crisis.
2) Many local gun violence intervention programs — which have seen success in preventing daily gun violence in cities — have experienced unprecedented challenges in their work, including strained funding, social distancing measures, and an expansion of their mission to include preventing the spread of the virus.
3) Crime trends show that cities have often experienced increases in violent crime during the warm days of summer.
Myth #2: Common-sense gun laws aren’t working.
The guns used in crimes are often illegally trafficked in from states with lax gun laws, circumventing any common-sense gun safety laws on the books. A New York Times investigation found “a thriving underground market for firearms brought from states with few restrictions,” with tens of thousands of transfers across state lines each year.
In New York and New Jersey, many guns used in crimes are later traced to the so-called Iron Pipeline, a reference to supply routes from Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and other Southern states with weak gun laws. In Chicago, city data shows that most guns recovered from crime scenes were first sold out of state — and that the top out-of-state suppliers are Indiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin, none of which require a background check on all gun sales.
Myth #3: “Federal Government ready, willing and able to help, if asked!” – @RealDonaldTrump
The House of Representatives has passed several bills that address gun violence, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, and the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 –– but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to bring any of them to the floor for a vote. President Trump has also repeatedly failed to take action on gun safety, incited violence against those protesting violence by police, and chosen the NRA –– which gave more to his 2016 election efforts than any other outside group –– over the American people.
Myth #4: Policymakers need to choose between doing nothing and taking a “tough on crime” approach.
There are a wide variety of evidence-based strategies currently being used in cities to prevent and intervene in the cycle of gun violence that lawmakers can support. Cure Violence, Gun Violence Intervention and Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs (HVIPs) have all seen success in saving lives in cities using them. Additionally, local intervention programs have adapted their strategies to continue helping communities, particularly communities of color, hit hard by both gun violence and the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s essential these programs continue to receive existing funding during and after the pandemic.