Looking at the data about 2020’s homicide spike provides no clear or easy answers

Originally published at: Looking at the data about 2020's homicide spike provides no clear or easy answers | Boing Boing


and the change in murders was larger in towns with under 10,000 people (up 31 percent) than in cities with over 1 million people (up 29 percent).

That’s larger? Makes me wonder about the authors right off the bat, 2 paragraphs in. If it really is statistically significant they should mention it because that just looks weird to call 31% larger than 29% instead of “quite similar”


From the article…

The article provided this without further comment, but I think this needs a bit of explanation for us readers outside the US. You are afraid of a virus, so you rush out and buy guns? The illustrations rarely provide a scale, but COVID isn’t a big, round thing like a tumbleweed: it’s not something you can shoot. Is it for the neighbours? For when civilisation disappears? To keep off the zombie hordes?


I can’t speak for the reasons everyone chose to, but there were a significant increase in new gun buyers in 2020. I think most of that stems from uncertainty of how bad things will get.

Will the economy completely tank and you have some crazy 50% or higher unemployment rate? Will people not be able to afford anything and resort to robbing people? The protests during the summer didn’t help things as some people feared there might be violence that spilled into their neighborhoods. Add that to the fact the extremely charged political climate where one might worry bands of MAGA hat wearing goons might make good on their violent threats. Then there was the post election protests.

I definitely felt more general anxiety and uncertainty during 2020 than at any other year I can remember. I am usually very happy-go-lucky.

In addition, in general when there are times of uncertainty, people plan for the worse. That is why there was a rush on toilet paper and essentials early on. It is why I took out some cash to have on hand in case card systems were down. It is why gold started to rise in February and continued to do so most of the year.

So no, it isn’t for silly reasons like Covid or zombies. Or covid zombies.


I’ve an acquaintance in my town who related how on 9/11 her father gathered up their family, including adult children and hightailed it up to their remote mountain cabin to sit out armageddon. Although I can’t bring myself to be critical of these decisions, I also know I’d never make those choices.


Thanks. It is good to have an answer, rather than assume it is obvious. But I am still not sure I understand. Yes, I don’t think they thought COVID was a beachball with suckers on (though nothing would altogether surprise me), but how does having a gun help? I suspect there are a number of people who might get a gun in the US. There probably are in any country, but the US is split between the armed and the unarmed 50-50, so there are a lot of people who might cross that line if their circumstances change, because it is a generalised reaction to an indeterminate threat. Here in the UK, I have known only one person who owns a gun, and that is a shotgun, which would probably be My First Firearm at Toys R Us in the US, so the line to cross is about the first percentile over here.

Gold rising is a different deal. The value of gold is way over what it is worth, but it is something you can bury, and dig up in 10 years, so it survives catastrophes where paper money might disappear. Thise invisible yet omnipotent powers who watch over us - I refer or course to the banks - would say “murder is up 20% buy murder!” and buying gold is effectively a bet on chaos.

Dang. I can’t wait for money 2.0 to come out, with some basic bug fixes.


I think a lot of people view guns as emergency supplies, like first aid kits, stashes of extra drinking water, non-perishable food stores. They’re not planning to use them, but they want them around “just in case”. They’re not really thinking of any particular scenario, they just live in a culture that tells people that a gun is a tool you might need in an emergency.


A rise in violent crimes here in the ATL has been a major topic for the upcoming mayoral race. It appears it’s not just a phenomenon specific to our city, but is a general trend? Not that that makes it any better, but still.


I think it is the general idea of, “What if it gets really bad and people start attacking one another?” Many people who are new owners probably never felt a need - but with the uncertainty of a “once in 100 years pandemic”, their minds have changed.

As for gold - people tend to invest in that during uncertain times as it should always retain value, unlike currency.

Kansas City has had an uptick in violent crime as well this year. I think Mayor Lucas is in office until 2023, but he has been in the news trying to find a balance and promote peace this past year. I know there have been conflict resolution programs and various community anti-violence groups, but thus far they don’t seem to be affecting much. I haven’t seen in the news what exactly all the violence is all about - like a central cause. It appears to be just people angry with one another, for the most part.

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I was afraid this might be the case.

I can’t answer for the rest of the world, but I would not include among my survival tools a major piece of kit that has no function over than to put a large and life-threatening hole though another human. This is unlikely to help. Even having a gun escalates any encounter. People blow away other people who took a parking space they wanted. I don’t know what you can do about it, but from outside the US, this all looks deeply, deeply weird.


As far as I can tell, in the whole article there are 4 words mentioning the possibility that increased domestic violence might have played a role. Seriously?

Anyone know if there’s any data on that aspect yet?


To many of us here inside the US it may not look deeply weird, but it does remind us we’re a deeply flawed country with an unsettling perspective about what’s weird and what’s normal.

Very good point, I’d like to see that as well.

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Here’s some data from early on:

As awful as it is, at least if DV is the (or one of the) primary driver of the increased homicides, that would suggest that we can expect a relatively quick drop to something like the previous trend once the pandemic is over and people aren’t stuck at home.

(Obviously we need to aggressively address all causes and not be satisfied with reverting to the previous trend)


Certainly elevated rates of domestic violence in Ireland and the UK, multiple sources. First thing that occured to me. I don’t think murder is up here though.
And an article to gather together.

74 homicides, half driving. No gang related so overall murder down but not that much due to domestic murders.


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