Some hoped that the coronavirus pandemic would slow the mass shooting epidemic in the United States due to lockdowns and fear of large gatherings. However, 2020 is on pace to be the deadliest year for mass shootings on record according to Gun Violence Archive. The reasons behind this are convoluted, but among them are fear and anxiety caused by the havoc the virus has wreaked on the world.
The initial lockdown amid the global pandemic did, in fact, drop the number of mass shootings…quite significantly. According to Bloomberg News, the number of mass shootings, which are defined by Gun Violence Archive as an attack in a public place injuring or killing four or more victims, dropped 24% in April, in comparison with 2019, which happened to make it the lowest single month for mass shootings since 2015. Since then, however, the story has been different.
Sure, the number of mass shootings has been on the rise in recent years, but this year is on par to shatter 2019’s numbers due to the stress and fear that the coronavirus pandemic has caused. The correlation between rising mental health concerns and the number of mass shootings should not be ignored. Mental Health America reported that from April to September, when mass shootings increased dramatically, 70% of those screened for moderate to severe anxiety and depression claimed that one of the top three contributions to their mental health concerns was loneliness or isolation. Social distancing and the need to quarantine has made us feel isolated like never before. Add in the fear and stress caused by unemployment, business closers, remote working, and the virus itself, and we have a recipe for mental health disaster that projects itself onto mass shooting statistics.
These effects of the coronavirus pandemic highlight the need to destigmatize mental health issues and show the importance of increased focus on mental health. Mental health should be treated as a major issue that needs to be dealt with to slow the mass shooting epidemic (in addition to the plethora of other reasons that mental health needs to be addressed). Sure, we must deal swiftly and carefully with the coronavirus pandemic that has swept through the country with devastating results but putting the issue of mass shootings on the back burner could have dire consequences. We must deal with both the epidemic of mass shootings and the viral pandemic simultaneously, not only because of the link between them, but because they are both safety concerns for our country that show no clear signs of stopping.
Igor Volsky, director of Guns Down America, said, “You have increased unemployment, the stress of the virus, the stress of having to be at home in communities with high infection rates,” which all contribute to mental health issues and, therefore, contribute to the rise in mass shootings. Studies have shown that weaker gun laws and more guns do increase the number of mass shootings; however, we should also focus on the root of the mass shooting epidemic. That is, we should focus on mental health and the ways we can assist those who are suffering.