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Gun violence: US saw biggest spike in 50 years. Don’t panic yet. | #schoolshooting | #parenting | #parenting | #kids


Last year likely marked America’s largest single-year rise in violent crime in 50 years – sparked by a sharp increase in shootings after the pandemic began.

Amid a national conversation on policing, the surge adds pressure to policymakers at all levels. Experts caution that while law enforcement is a vital part of public safety, police should be one part in a larger package of solutions. There are well-tested methods that decrease violence, but implementing them at scale will require patience, nuance, and a willingness to think past political narratives. 

Why We Wrote This

The surge in gun violence during the pandemic has strengthened both pro- and anti-police stances. But experts – and history – indicate that a more nuanced approach is needed.

“Community gun violence – which is really what’s driving this trend – is not the intractable challenge that people think it is,” says Thomas Abt of the Council on Criminal Justice. “In fact, we’ve had success in reducing this kind of violence many times and in many places all around the country. The challenge has been sustaining that success.”

The discourse around public safety has largely devolved into a false either-or choice of supporting or opposing the police. But effective policies don’t fit cleanly into left- or right-wing platforms.

“No city in the United States has sustainably reduced violence by exclusively arresting their way out of the problem or by programming their way out of it,” says Mr. Abt. “Everybody has used a combination of strategies.”

Last year likely marked America’s largest single-year rise in gun violence in 50 years – sparked by a sharp increase in shootings after the pandemic began.

Though the FBI won’t release official numbers until the fall, Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at Princeton University in New Jersey and an expert on violent crime, estimates the national murder rate rose by 25% to 30%. The rate of nonfatal shootings jumped even more, he says, doubling in many cities. 

Amid a national conversation on policing, the surge adds pressure to policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. Experts caution that while law enforcement is a vital part of public safety, police should be one part in a larger package of solutions. There are well-tested methods that decrease violence, but implementing them at scale will require patience, nuance, and a willingness to think past political narratives. 

Why We Wrote This

The surge in gun violence during the pandemic has strengthened both pro- and anti-police stances. But experts – and history – indicate that a more nuanced approach is needed.

“Community gun violence – which is really what’s driving this trend – is not the intractable challenge that people think it is,” says Thomas Abt, director of the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice at the Council on Criminal Justice. “In fact, we’ve had success in reducing this kind of violence many times and in many places all around the country. The challenge has been sustaining that success.”

Are we seeing a return to 1990s-level violence?

In absolute numbers, the level of gun violence remains far below its peak in the early 1990s – after which shootings plummeted across the United States until 2014, when numbers gradually began ticking up. 

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