A survey of California adults found that the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in more gun purchases and greater concerns about potential violence — and respondents also reported changes in firearm storage practices, with more gun owners storing their guns less securely due to the pandemic.
An analysis of the survey findings was published in JAMA Network Open.
According to the authors of the analysis, Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, PhD, MPH, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California Davis School of Medicine, and colleagues, with the number of lives lost with the emergence and progression of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the social, psychological, and economic consequences of trying to suppress its spread, an increase in violence or exposure to violence might be on the horizon.
“Pandemic-induced social isolation, hopelessness, and loss, particularly for people with existing mental health conditions, such as depression, may result in thoughts of suicide. Interpersonal violence in the home may increase in frequency and severity as household members, including intimate partners, children, and vulnerable elders, spend more time at home together under high-stress conditions,” Kravitz-Wirtz and colleagues observed. “Having a firearm readily available in these situations creates additional risk.”
They also pointed out that the pandemic has exacerbated structural, economic, and social inequities that could be associated with violence.
Therefore Kravitz-Wirtz and colleagues analyzed concerns regarding potential violence in the context of the pandemic — specifically the prevalence and reason for acquiring firearms and ammunition, changes in firearm storage practices, and inequitable treatment due to the pandemic.
The study used survey data from the 2020 California Safety and Well-being Survey, a probability-based internet survey of California adults conducted from July 14 to 27, 2020, with responses weighted to represent the adult population of the state. Among the 2,870 respondents, slightly more than half (52.3%) were women and 41.9% white (median age of 47.9 years).
The percentage of respondents who indicated they were somewhat or very worried about experiencing violence increased for all violence types, with the exception of mass shootings. These included:
- A 2.8 percentage point increase for robbery (from 65.5% to 68.2% during the pandemic).
- A 5.4 percentage point increase for police violence (from 45.3% to 50.6%).
- A 5.4 percentage point increase for unintentional shootings (from 42.7% to 48.0%).
- A 5.6 percentage point increase for stray bullet shootings (from 44.5% to 50.0%).
About 1 in 8 respondents (12.1%) reported concerns that they knew someone who might physically harm another person on purpose, with 1.8% saying their concern was based in part on the fact that person had experienced a loss during the pandemic. A similar percentage (13.3%) reported that someone they knew might intentionally hurt themselves. Of those, 7.5% explained that it was because that other person had experienced a pandemic-related loss.
More than two-thirds of respondents (69.2%) reported that they had experienced one form of unfair treatment in the previous 12 months, with 7.4% of those indicating that unfair treatment was related to the pandemic.
Among gun owners, 2.4% reported that they had acquired a firearm in response to the pandemic, while 8.5% of owners said that they had purchased ammunition in response to the pandemic. Extrapolating these figures to represent the entire population of adults in California resulted in an estimate of approximately 110,000 Californians who acquired firearms during the pandemic, including 47,000 new owners.
Finally, a significant percentage of gun owners (6.7%) have been storing their firearms in the least secure way in response to the pandemic.
In a commentary accompanying the study, Katelin Hoskins, PhD, MBE, CRNP, and Rinad S. Beidas, PhD, both of the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, noted that choosing less secure firearm storage practices is a substantial risk factor for firearm-related injuries and deaths, and that engaging new gun owners, as well as individuals who reported changing their storage practices, in efforts to prevent unauthorized access to their firearms could reduce the likelihood of firearm-related injury and mortality.
Hoskins and Beidas also pointed out that considering there is an association between firearm access and suicide, targeting safe firearm storage programs is “critical.”
“Our findings add support to a growing body of research suggesting that the pandemic, and efforts to lessen its spread, have compounded the burden of violence-related harms,” Kravitz-Wirtz and colleagues concluded. They added that these results should inform efforts at mitigating the consequences kinds of societal shocks, both now and in the future.
- The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in gun ownership among California adults, as well as increased concerns about firearm-related violence.
- A signficant percentage of gun owners report that they are engaging in less secure firearm storage practices.
Michael Bassett, Contributing Writer, BreakingMED™
Hoskins reported receiving a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (T32MH109433; postdoctoral trainee) during the conduct of the study.
Beidas reported receiving a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH123491 and T32 MH109433) during the conduct of the study; grants from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute of Nuring Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Psoriasis Foundation, Veterans Affairs Quality Enhancement Research Initiative, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; royalties from Oxford University Press; served as a consultant to Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers; and receives an honorarium for servind on the Optum Behavioral Health Clinical Scientific Advisory Council.
Cat ID: 190
Topic ID: 79,190,254,930,281,730,933,190,926,192,927,146,52,151,928,925,934