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Gun Violence Did Not Decrease in 2020. It Actually Went Up.

On Sunday, five people including a pregnant woman were killed in Indianapolis, in what’s being hailed as the city’s worst mass shooting in a decade. As of this writing, police do not have any leads on the shooter or shooters, but it’s another part of a grim trend in the U.S. that, contrary to popular belief, has not abated. Over the course of 2020, a truism started floating around that whatever the downsides of self-isolation, one of the perks was a sudden drop in the spate of mass shootings that have plagued the U.S. in recent years. It was a comforting silver lining in a year in dire need of some. Unfortunately, it turns out to just not be true.

That’s according to the most recent stats from Gun Violence Archives, a non-profit that keeps track of all gun-related violence in the U.S. They’ve been keeping track of gun violence since 2013, which rose through most of the decade before taking a sharp dip in 2019. In 2018, there were 55,137 incidents of gun violence reported, with 14,879 total deaths and 337 mass shootings. In 2019, there were 39,525 total incidents, with 15,435 deaths and 417 mass shootings. Worth noting that these death tolls do not account for suicides by gun, and GVA counts any incident in which there were four or more victims as a “mass shooting.”

In 2020, the numbers started to tick back up, lockdown or otherwise. They found 43,482 total incidents of gun violence, with 19,326 deaths and 612 mass shootings — the highest death toll in over 20 years and a 46 percent mass shooting increase over the previous year. Of those killed, 298 had not yet turned 12 years old.

It’s not yet clear why gun violence increased so much. There was a spike in gun sales in March right when the U.S. started to enter lockdown, and numerous public resources were diverted to navigating the pandemic, which led to a loss of some usual social safety net features that may help reduce gun violence in communities. Also, 2020 saw a rise in domestic violence. All of those factors probably were instrumental in the increase, but it will take time to sift through the data before we understand more about just what is going on in the U.S.

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President Joe Biden’s new administration has an ambitious plan for tackling America’s gun violence epidemic, which includes banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and increasing background checks. That plan isn’t likely to find a lot of bipartisan support but with the National Rifle Association off licking its wounds in Texas and the national tide shifting on gun ownership, gun control advocates sense an opening for some new legislation.

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