May 20, 2020 Press Releases

Interpersonal Gun Violence Persists During COVID-19

Gun violence remains glaring exception to the coronavirus crime drop

Investment in community-based violence prevention is essential in the face of coronavirus 

SEATTLE, WA – Across Washington state, communities are battling two public health crises at once: the coronavirus and gun violence. Anecdotal reports and initial data suggest that shootings have continued at or above past rates in many areas, despite Washington’s stay-at-home orders. 

In King County, continued shootings have prompted advocates to claim that COVID-19 has not stopped the violence. The same appears to be true across the country. In many cities, data shows gun violence outpacing other types of crime. The United States saw more than 2,100 gun deaths between March and April—the highest toll during that time period since 2016. Both gun violence and the coronavirus are hitting low-income communities and communities of color hardest. 

We have seen how the effects of the coronavirus and the actions necessary to slow the spread of the disease exacerbate the risk of gun violence. As financial hardship and feelings of isolation increase, so does the risk of domestic violence and firearm suicide. And as millions of children are at home for the foreseeable future, unintentional shootings are on the rise.   

Similarly, stay-at-home orders can drive an increase in interpersonal gun violence. Without school, sports, or other extracurricular activities, young people are finding themselves without safe spaces or trusted adults. Young people are also facing the same feelings of isolation and desperation, which can lead to violence.

As these threats increase, the essential work of community-based violence intervention and prevention programs is more important than ever. This year, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill to create an Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention, which is tasked with, among other things, collecting data on gun violence, identifying solutions, supporting victims of gun violence, and funding community violence prevention programs.  

The need for this office was imperative before, but it has taken on a new level of urgency in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Elected officials will be forced to make many tough decisions in the months and years ahead, but we urge them not to forget the persistent threat of gun violence. State and local governments must prioritize investing in these programs to ensure their work continues as our communities face the challenges of fighting the coronavirus and recovering from this historic economic fallout.