Effects of Statewide Coronavirus Public Health Measures and State Gun Laws on American Gun Violence
43 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2020
Date Written: August 24, 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic dramatically shifted American public life, and with it patterns of gun violence. In this paper, we show that states’ efforts to contain COVID-19 infections through statewide emergency declarations, Stay at Home orders, and phased reopening have significantly altered prevailing patterns of firearm injuries and deaths. We provide a systematic analysis of how state policy responses to COVID-19 affected overall levels of gun violence and specific kinds of shootings, including multiple victim and mass shootings. While emergency declarations and Stay at Home orders had a dampening effect on many forms of gun violence, we find that the number of people injured or killed by a firearm per day increased more than 15% following state reopening, on average. Over the first 30 days of reopening, we estimate that the average state had an additional 5 mass shootings than would be predicted absent the epidemic in the first 30 days of reopening. Additionally, we examine how COVID-related public health measures affect the composition of gun violence. We find that gun violence has followed workers and children home; even though workplaces and schools have closed, gun violence has likely reappeared in Americans’ lives as domestic violence related shootings and child involved shootings during Stay at Home and school closure periods. Finally, we show that state gun laws worked together with COVID-related emergency declarations and Stay at Home orders to further decrease gun violence in some states. Conversely, in states with decreased criminal liability for firearm use, as in states with Stand Your Ground laws, we observe an exacerbating effect on firearm injuries and deaths during the emergency declaration and Stay at Home order periods. Only one policy, waiting periods for handgun purchases, significantly dampened reopening surges in gun violence. These findings suggest that state policy environments can substantially reduce the impacts of exogenous shocks like COVID-19 on American gun violence and provides guidance on which policies can be helpful and which can be harmful.
Keywords: coronavirus, COVID-19, gun violence, firearm injury, firearm death, state policy, gun laws, waiting period, Stand Your Ground
JEL Classification: I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation