Firearm purchasing and firearm violence during the coronavirus pandemic in the United States: a cross-sectional study

Julia P. Schleimer, Christopher D. McCort, Aaron B. Shev, Veronica A. Pear, Elizabeth Tomsich, Alaina De Biasi, Shani Buggs, Hannah S. Laqueur, Garen J Wintemute

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Firearm violence is a significant public health problem in the United States. A surge in firearm purchasing following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic may have contributed to an increase in firearm violence. We sought to estimate the state-level association between firearm purchasing and interpersonal firearm violence during the pandemic. Methods: Cross-sectional study of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia from January 2018 through July 2020. Data were obtained from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (a proxy for firearm purchasing) and the Gun Violence Archive. Using negative binomial regression models, we estimated the association between cumulative excess firearm purchases in March through July 2020 (measured as the difference between observed rates and those expected from autoregressive integrated moving average models) and injuries (including nonfatal and fatal) from intentional, interpersonal firearm violence (non-domestic and domestic violence). Results: We estimated that there were 4.3 million excess firearm purchases nationally from March through July 2020 and a total of 4075 more firearm injuries than expected from April through July. We found no relationship between state-level excess purchasing and non-domestic firearm violence, e.g., each excess purchase per 100 population was associated with a rate ratio (RR) of firearm injury from non-domestic violence of 0.76 (95% CI: 0.50–1.02) in April; 0.99 (95% CI: 0.72–1.25) in May; 1.10 (95% CI: 0.93–1.32) in June; and 0.98 (95% CI: 0.85–1.12) in July. Excess firearm purchasing within states was associated with an increase in firearm injuries from domestic violence in April (RR: 2.60; 95% CI: 1.32–5.93) and May (RR: 1.79; 95% CI: 1.19–2.91), though estimates were sensitive to model specification. Conclusions: Nationwide, firearm purchasing and firearm violence increased substantially during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic. At the state level, the magnitude of the increase in purchasing was not associated with the magnitude of the increase in firearm violence. Increases in purchasing may have contributed to additional firearm injuries from domestic violence in April and May. Results suggest much of the rise in firearm violence during our study period was attributable to other factors, indicating a need for additional research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number43
JournalInjury Epidemiology
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Domestic violence
  • Firearm
  • Gun
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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