This week the Washington Post claimed that the increase in crime is due to the increase in lawful gun purchases as charted by the number of universal background checks processed since the beginning of the lockdown and nation-wide unrest. Legal purchasers, surmises WaPo, are driven by racism and they’re buying all of these guns legally so they can shoot people throughout America’s streets, which is why the crime rate has spiked (but wait, I thought the people in the streets were “peaceful protestors?”)
Americans purchased millions more guns than usual this spring, spurred in large part by racial animosity stoked by widespread protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, as well as anxiety over the effects of the covid-19 pandemic.
Our estimates indicate that almost three million more firearms have been sold since March than would have ordinarily been sold during these months. Half of that increase occurred in June alone. This pattern highlights an important potential consequence that may result from this tumultuous period: more firearms in the hands of private citizens.
Let’s be honest, it’s that last line that scares the hell out of gun control activists. They realize that the push for gun control was killed by their “defund the police” rhetoric, riot murders, and videos of mothers being stabbed while pushing their babies in strollers. They have to stop these purchases somehow so consider this attempt at mass character assassination their Hail Mary pass.
Let’s look at the first report from Brookings. It’s rushed, mostly editorial, and sloppy [bold my emphasis]:
Past spikes in firearms sales have occurred when individuals worried about possible restrictions (see figure below). Following President Obama’s calls to impose modest restrictions on firearm sales …
Modest restrictions, you know. According to whom? The proposals were hardly modest and included using taxpayer dollars to pay the CDC to frame gun control as a health issue rather than a criminal issue of prohibited possessors using firearms in commission of crimes. Brookings supports gun control so will not share this beyond describing the proposals as “modest.”
They get close, so close to the truth here [bold my emphasis]:
The onset of these protests started another surge in firearm sales, reaching 150,000 per day on June 2 and June 3. The protests faded but, as public discussions about Black Lives Matter and defunding the police persisted, firearm sales remained elevated throughout the month of June.
As a result of these events, firearm sales in June were the highest on record (since data collection began in 1998), with 3.9 million firearms sold. This includes an additional 1.4 million firearms beyond the number that we would normally expect to be sold in June.
This is the first mention of Democrats’ defund the police platform, so naturally this was how they viewed the uptick, coupled with all the violence and destruction from night after night of riots on TV, right?
THE ROLE OF RACISM
Along with the general concern for personal security that these protests may have unleashed, additional data suggests that inherent racial tensions in our society also contributed to the June spike in firearm sales.
No, the increase in gun sales couldn’t be from officials across the country releasing violent offenders due to coronavirus concerns (which apparently outweigh concerns for public safety) or votes to defund the police, or live coverage of violent mobs busting into private neighborhoods, no, it’s apparently all because the people buying guns are possibly, maybe racists. What was Brookings’ scientific approach that brought them to this conclusion? They googled it.
To examine this issue, we augment our analysis with data from Google Trends, which indicates the relative frequency with which individuals search for certain terms. Following an approach used in prior research, we track searches for a common racial epithet as a measure of racial animus.
The increase in firearm sales in June may have had nothing to do with racial animus, though.
To shed further light on the relationship between gun sales and racial animus, we examined geographic variation in these measures. Specifically, we explored whether the June spike in firearm sales (measured relative to sales in June 2019) was larger in states where racial animus is greater. We measured state-level racial animus using Google Trends data on the relative prevalence of the same search term across the 50 states in 2019. We use the state-specific firearm sales spikes in March (relative to March of 2019) to capture state-level differences in the way that personal security concerns translate into firearm purchases.
We find that states where individuals are more likely to search for racial epithets experienced larger increases in June firearm sales, even after adjusting for the personal security concerns that likely generated the March spikes in gun sales. This pattern suggests that part of the concern regarding personal security that led to firearm sales increases in June was related to the racial tensions.
So you’re telling me that people were typing the N word into Google and then going to buy guns? I’m assuming on the racial slur here because Brookings doesn’t actually tell us at any point exactly what slurs they considered and researched in their scientific study. “All lives matter” is considered a slur, so who really knows. California saw an increase of 42,362 more background checks the first six months of 2020 alone compared to 2019. (FBI totals for BGCs by year here; state by state here.) Using Brookings’s logic, since California is a reliably Democrat state, we understand these to be a bunch of Democrat racists googling slurs and then buying guns. Or maybe they aren’t. That we are in an unprecedented period of history with a global pandemic and violent unrest coupled with calls to defund police, it’s crazy to see people buying guns, not to protect themselves, but to exercise their racism. Possibly.
Then there is this graph:
The presence of so many guns complicates discussions of public policy. Injustices committed by the police, and systemic racism in society more broadly need to end. It is concerning that the necessary national discussion regarding racial injustice is leading to even more firearms in the hands of Americans.
No, it doesn’t. Gaslighting the public about racism complicates any expectation of honesty in discussions of public policy — but not law-abiding people peaceably and legally owning legal items with which they’ve committed no crime, or the violent rioters whose destruction, murder, and assault Brookings can’t bring itself to mention in context with defunding the police while smearing gun owners.
They again reveal their real problem with the increase in firearm purchases:
This concern is particularly relevant in the context of discussions regarding defunding the police. When public goods are not provided by the government, or are provided on a scale that some consider to be inadequate, individuals turn to private provision of these services.
Similarly, it would not be surprising for some citizens to respond to perceived limitations on police services with private provision. This may include purchasing more firearms. In a society fraught with racial tension, it is not clear that dismantling the police and seeing more private citizens purchase guns will lead to a safer world.
True, when people see their police being arbitrarily defunded and duties like traffic stops handed over to unarmed “civil servants,” citizens lose faith in the ability to rely on the respective taxpayer-funded entity for protection. The consequence is that citizens will assume responsibility for the protection of themselves and their families. The violent riots across the country and wall-to-wall coverage of burning buildings, assaults, and murder adds a sense of urgency to the legal act of equipping oneself in the event one needs to protect their family. If Brookings studied the increase in violence, rioting, plus the crime related to arrest rates, Democrat policies, bail reform, absence of penalties, and undermining of support for police, they would have a clear measure as to why Americans are buying more guns.
The premise of the second study cited by WaPo is “A surge in firearm purchases following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic may increase rates of firearm violence.” This study also tries to blame racism for the record high background checks, except that two of the states that posted the highest numbers are deep blue states, one state is considered a swing state, one is red and one is considered to have enough Cali-blue to be “in play”:
Illinois registered the highest number of background checks last month, with 706,404. That state was followed by Kentucky (395,188), Texas (227,232), and Florida (210,415). California rounded out the top five background checks with 158,349.
The second study was funded by by a gun control and “racial equity” group, another left-leaning group that works with the Tides Foundation to decrease funding for the enforcement of immigrations laws (among other programs), and the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center, directed by a gun control activist. This isn’t to use guilt-by-association as a way to undermine the study’s credibility (I think the methodology does that on its own), but it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that the bias of the groups underwriting the flawed study does nothing to help its credibility. WaPo is forced to include the disclaimer “The authors caution that a study of this nature cannot prove causality, particularly at a time of massive social upheaval in a country dealing with an unprecedented public health crisis as well as a nationwide protest movement” within the piece.
If WaPo was so confident (which they clearly are not) that the crime spike was due to new lawful purchases, it wouldn’t be difficult to find and publish such evidence. I’d also love to see how WaPo squares away the notoriously long waiting period for new purchases in states like New York and California while blaming them for the crime spike underway likely before date of purchase.
The narrative here ignores that gun ownership isn’t limited to white people. It’s ironic that Brookings is using race to promote gun control, given the racial history of gun control, but not surprising. After all these years the left is still consistent on wanting to deprive people of their rights.