Story at a glance

  • Researchers compared rates of gun violence in each state both before and during the pandemic.
  • The study found gun violence spiked by nearly a third across the country.
  • Twenty-eight states saw a significant increase in shootings during the pandemic.

Instances of gun violence increased by more than 30 percent over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as stress and uncertainty may have fueled an increase in gun sales, according to a new study. 

Penn State researchers behind the study, published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, analyzed daily incidents of shooting deaths, suicides and gun-related injuries in each state both before and during the pandemic. 

They compared rates of gun violence from February 2019 through February 2020, to incidents reported March 2020 through March 2021. The team used data from the Gun Violence Archive. 

The study found gun violence spiked by nearly a third across the country, with 28 states experiencing a significant increase in shootings during the pandemic. In states such as Minnesota, Michigan and New York, the rate of gun violence doubled. Meanwhile, Alaska was the only state to see a decrease. 


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“The pandemic has yielded harmful ripple effects that need to be addressed,” Paddy Ssentongo, assistant professor at the Penn State Center for Neural Engineering, said in a statement

“The spike in gun violence in the era of COVID-19 comes as a stark reminder that we can’t afford to ignore it any longer. Now is the time to focus on this public health crisis,” Ssentongo said. 

Researchers suggested increases in stress, domestic violence and firearm sales during the pandemic could be behind the spike in violence, noting a 41 percent increase in handgun sales in March 2020 from the year prior. 


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Published on Oct 21, 2021