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Another epidemic: America’s gun crimes makes 2020 most violent year in decades

By Chi Zao (People's Daily Online)    11:29, January 15, 2021

One-year-old Davell Gardner Jr. died after being shot in the stomach while sitting in his stroller during a barbecue near a playground in New York. His father made an emotional plea for the gun violence to end on the Internet. (Screenshot from NYPD’s Twitter page)

It was July 13, 2020. Though America’s largest city announced its first 24-hour period without a COVID-19 death since the start of the pandemic, citizens in New York were in no mood to celebrate the hard-won triumph. Davell Gardner Jr., a 1-year-old boy who was fatally shot while sitting in a stroller outside a park in Brooklyn the night before, reminded people that the nation’s gun violence epidemic was no less lethal than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Davell Gardner Jr. is not the only child who lost his life amid the pandemic, not for COVID-19, but as a result of America’s uncontrollable gun crimes. According to data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), an online site that collects gun violence data, 1,360 children and youth aged 0-17 were killed by guns in the U.S. in 2020, while 3,752 were injured.

In 2020, Americans have experienced significantly higher levels of violence. GVA’s data showed that 19,302 people were killed in shootings and firearm-related incidents in 2020, which is the highest death toll in over 20 years. Mass shootings, which are classified as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed, has also risen to 612, the most in the past five years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed America’s deep-rooted problems, such as racial discrimination, a public health crisis and the magnified contrast between the rich and the poor. Those social and economic issues have made America’s already complicated gun violence even more severe, and we can hardly see any hope of improvement in foreseeable future,” Yuan Zheng, deputy director and senior fellow of the Institute of American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told People’s Daily Online. 

Gun violence on the rise amid pandemic

A homeless man sits on the roadside in Chicago, United States, Jan. 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Wang Ping)

As a country with the highest COVID-19 death toll, America’s economy and society have been hit hard by the lethal virus, leaving hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Stresses and pressures related to lockdowns and prolonged periods of isolation have also made people’s lives harder, providing a warm bed for deteriorating gun violence.

Based on data released by the U.S. census in December 2020, due to the pandemic, nearly 83 million adults — 34 percent of all adults in the U.S.— were struggling to afford expenses for basic necessities such as rent, mortgage, food, car payments, medical expenses or student loans in the past seven days. An estimated 12.4 million adult renters reported that they were not caught up on rent.

Economic downturn has led to more crimes in the U.S. According to data provided by the country’s Council on Criminal Justice, homicides have increased sharply in 2020 across the U.S. In the 21 cities providing homicide data, there were 610 more homicides in the summer and fall of 2020 than during the same period in 2019. Aggravated assaults went up by 15% in the summer and 13% in the fall of 2020; gun assaults increased by 15% and 16%.

“Economic and domestic securities are two pillars of a stable society. The pandemic has made a dent in both. America’s rising unemployment rate and gloomy economic outlook, along with its high COVID-19 death toll, have robbed people’s sense of security, contributing to the rise of gun violence amid the pandemic,” Sun Chenghao, assistant research professor at the Institute of American Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told People’s Daily Online.

“Discontent over the nation’s lousy pandemic control effort, economic recession and racial injustice, as well as strong disappointment in an uncertain future have all encouraged some Americans to resort to violence to solve their problems, while the election result has infuriated many Trump supporters,” added Sun.

According to FBI data, when the pandemic started to deteriorate in the U.S. in March, 2020, 3.7 million gun purchase background checks were done, the most for a single month since the system began in 1998, outshining the previous record, set in December 2015 when 3.3 million checks were conducted.

Chronic malaise with no solution 

People take part in a rally held in downtown San Francisco to urge the federal government and lawmakers in Congress to take action to control gun-related crimes, Aug. 17, 2019. Public opinion on gun control is quite divided in the U.S., though more and more people are now demanding the government to take strict measures to curb the ongoing gun violence across the nation. (Photo by Li Jianguo/Xinhua)

Two months after Davell Gardner Jr.’s death, his father Davell Gardner Sr. expressed his wish to control gun violence on Twitter, calling for more measures to stop such brutal killings.

"He's only one. His birthday is in two months. He didn't live to see two. He didn't live life. I lost my first-born ... my baby boy. This has to stop," said Davell Gardner Sr.

The sorrowful father’s plea has been backed up by many Americans on the Internet, but experts noted that strict gun control in the U.S. remains a pipe dream due to divided public opinion on such issues, as well as opposition from relevant interest groups such as the National Rifle Association.

“In the foreseeable future, political polarization and conflicts between the Republicans and Democrats will be the major themes of America’s political landscape. Strict gun control, which harms the interests of pro-gun groups, will not be tolerated. It’s also impossible to revise the constitution to further promote gun control or even implement bans on guns. Gun violence will remain a major social issue in the U.S., and there is simply no way out of it,” said Sun. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Kou Jie, Liang Jun)

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