Cities Face Rising Gun Violence

Several factors could be behind the increase, officials say
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 28, 2020 5:30 PM CST
Gun Violence Rises During Pandemic
A woman reacts in September outside the University of Chicago Medicine's Comer Children's Hospital, where an 8-year-old girl was taken after being killed in a shooting.   (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune via AP, File)

When Andre Avery drives his commercial truck through Detroit, he keeps his pistol close. Avery, 57, grew up in the Motor City and is aware that homicides and shootings are surging, even though before the pandemic they were dropping in Detroit and elsewhere. His gun is legal, and he carries it for protection. "I remain extremely alert," said Avery, who now lives in nearby Belleville. "I'm not in crowds. If something looks a little suspicious, I’m out of there.” In Detroit, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and even smaller Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Milwaukee, 2020 has been deadly not only because of the pandemic, but because gun violence is spiking. Authorities and some experts say there is no one clear-cut reason for the spike, the AP reports. They instead point to social and economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus, public sentiment toward police following George Floyd's death at the hands of police in Minneapolis, and a historic shortage of jobs and resources in poorer communities as contributing factors. It's happening in cities large and small, Democrat and Republican-led.

Two years ago, Detroit had 261 homicides—the fewest in decades—and about 750 nonfatal shootings in the city of more than 672,000. But with only a few days left in 2020, homicides already have topped 300, while nonfatal shootings are up more than 50%, at more than 1,124 through the middle of December. "I think the pandemic—COVID—has had a significant emotional impact on people across the country," Detroit Police Chief James Craig said. "Individuals are not processing how they manage disputes. Whether domestics, arguments, disputes over drugs, there’s this quickness to use an illegally carried firearm." About 7,000 guns had been seized through mid-December in Detroit, with more than 5,500 arrests for illegal guns. There were 2,797 similar arrests last year. "I've not seen a spike like this. But when it's happening in other cities—some smaller—what do we all have in common?” Craig said. "That’s when you start thinking about COVID."

(Read more gun violence stories.)

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