Criminologists and criminal-justice activists analyzing the nearly 50 percent increase in mass shootings in 2020 are debating whether vaccinations and reopening schools and businesses will be enough to reverse this alarming trend, reports USA TODAY.
“The entire year was extremely violent,” said Patrick Sharkey, a gun violence researcher and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. “This could end up the most violent year of this century.”
Violent crime and murder rates in major American cities continued to rise through most of last year, resulting in an “unprecedented single-year spike,” according to research released in early February by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (CCJ) and Arnold Ventures.
Gun and other aggravated assault cases also increased, the data shows, while property and drug crimes fell.
Mark Bryant, founder of the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, said that in the first seven weeks of this year, said there have been 63 mass shootings — defined as four or more people injured or killed in one incident —which if continued would show a drop from 2020.
“I’m hoping last year proves to be the anomaly,” Bryant told USA TODAY. “The stresses caused by last year, from jobs to illness, were not just an urban thing or a rural thing. We saw bumps in towns in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as in Chicago and Philadelphia.”
But others say that COVID-19 aside, the inequities and strains in American society must be addressed in order to tackle gun violence.
“We want to see a decline but we won’t until the nation does more to advance justice and economic empowerment for these communities,” said Jerika Richardson, senior vice president for Equitable Justice & Strategic Initiatives at the National Urban League, a non-partisan civil rights organization based in New York.
“Civil rights groups are on it,” Richardson told USA TODAY. “But to see a decline in numbers in 2021 and beyond we need everyone in this country to get involved and do the work.”
A USA TODAY analysis of Gun Violence Archive statistics from 2020 shows that mass shootings surged by 4 percent as many states reported unprecedented increases in weapons-related incidents. In 2020, the United States reported 611 mass shooting events that resulted in 513 deaths and 2,543 injuries.
The types of gun-related violence that took place over the past 12 months often involved family members and gang members, experts said in the USA TODAY article.
“So while the pandemic shut down many locations that have been notorious for mass killings — schools, concerts, movie theaters, malls — it contributed to shootings by exacerbating existing financial and health inequities while taking away structured settings and activities for young people, who often are both perpetrators and victims of gun violence, experts said,” according to USA TODAY.