We’ve been very busy IRL here at Ye Olde Blogge, but things are starting to get back to what passes for normal before it all blows up again in August when I go back to my teaching job. Anywho. This is another post that feels like catch up with the old news and not responding to current news.
Anywho, this post addresses the “mysterious” uptick in violence that the US experienced in 2020 during the pandemic lockdown. Spoiler, it isn’t because of BLM, defund the police, or the George Floyd protests no matter what the GQP would want to gaslight us into believing.
Really, it is due to two things: (1) permission and (2) an increase in the availability of guns. So, let’s explore how both of these phenomenon combine to produce this increase in violence.
Permission or Changing Norms
Maybe you haven’t noticed but there’s been an uptick in interpersonal violence during the Great 2020 #COVID19 Pandemic what with anti-maskers punching people left, right, and center when asked to where a mask to protect the rest of us from their poor judgment. You remember those stories in the news, right?
We all know why those acts of violence were happening, right? They were happening because the Ol’ Pussy Grabber gave his followers permission to be violent. This is what we meant when we said Trump was changing our norms. The violence in the rhetoric on the right has been increasing from eight o’clock day one of the Trump candidacy. As the divide in our cloven politics deepens and widens, the anger and urge to use violence increases, especially by those who have been brainwashed on the take our country back and Second Amendment solutions rhetoric of the conservative grievance victimhood politics.
Essentially, Trump and his hateful band of useful idiots have shifted our normative behavior towards violence. Violence is in the air. Conservatives feel empowered to confront mask-wearers (thanks Tuckems!), progressives, Muslims, Jews, immigrants or anyone unfortunate enough to resemble a member of an identified threat to white supremacy, right Sikhs? All in an effort to take our country back!
All that partisan divide has done is divided the country into two distinct groups. The MAGA conservative radicalizing violent extremists on the one side and the rest of us who are terrified of their penchant for violence and oppression on the other. Turning our politics into a zero-sum game of if they win, our world is destroyed leads to any means to defend our world and way of life is justified.
Ergo, presto, magic-o! If I’m angry and afraid, you must be threatening me and I getta defend myself. The people committing the violence feel justified in doing so. They feel like violence is a good way to solve their problems. It didn’t used to be this way. This is what we meant when we said that Trump was changing our norms. Violence has become normal behavior.
The other part of this national orgy of violence equation lies in the increase in gun availability. When guns are available, guns get used. Ever notice how no one gets shot when guns aren’t available? You know what the surest way to not get shot is? Don’t have a gun around.
The Increased Availability of Guns
A funny thing happened on our way to social distancing and quarantining, people stopped at the gun store and bought guns. Lots of ’em!
As this Vox article, One possible cause of the 2020 murder increase: More guns, explains the increased number of guns has a greater explanatory value than the ever popular conservative whipping horse of the thin blue line holding the teeming hordes of violent Black criminals back from murdering and raping all the White people concerning the increase in violent crime and murder.
This argument tells us that there are three main reasons why there were less police protecting us from all the Black criminals but not enough to protect Congress from all the white ones during the 6 January Insurrection. First, because of the pandemic, policing changed. A significant number of police were sick with #COVID19 and unavailable for work. Another thing that happened is that there were a lot of George Floyd protests around the country and police resources were diverted to deal with them. And, third, all of the bad progressives calling for defunding the police hurt their feelings, so they decided not to do their jobs to teach us all a lesson.
While there is evidence that supports the decline in policing theory, it isn’t sufficient to account for the increase in violence and murder. One basic measure of policing activity is tallying the number of like stops and arrests. When you look at that data, it is clear that fewer police stops occurred and fewer people were arrested. However, it is also clear that guns were found during those stops in greater numbers than previous years.
As the number of stops, searches, and arrests decreased, the percentage of those interactions where guns were found increased as did the shear number of guns. In other words, folks were running around town with a lotta lotta guns.
Both the amount of violence and murders and the rate of policing were not evenly distributed across the year, so if the two were correlated, you’d expect to see them vary together. They don’t. For example, policing declined dramatically in March and April, but violence and mayhem didn’t increase. I guess even the criminals were home in lockdown, hunh? Policing dropped again in May after George Floyd’s murder, and violent crime increased. However, in the last few months of the year, policing increased, but violent crime didn’t decrease.
The once constant throughout the year? Police stops and searches were more likely to result in a gun being found. This wasn’t just a little disparity. The article offers the example of Chicago where police stops declined 70% January to May of 2020, but there was an 83% increase in the number of guns found by police! There’s a lot of armed Chicagoans out there before George Floyd’s murder and protests. This pattern was repeated in cities big and small across the country.
What is the take away from all of this? Chiefly, the cause of complex social behavior is difficult to assess and likely has multiple causes. Violence and murder in a society is a complex behavior. There is no one explanation no matter how much the right craves an overly simplistic explanation and begs its favored politicians to gaslight them.
That is the second takeaway, don’t let ’em gaslight you! Defund the police is unrelated to the increase in violence and murder across the country.
And, the third is that you can’t get shot when there ain’t no gun around to be shot at you. People still get just as angry and are just as violent, but without a gun, gun-related injuries cannot occur. We all know that gunshot wounds are far more lethal than any other weapon, so fatalities decline, too.
The take our country back rhetoric has resulted in all the gun fetishests fever dreams of taking up arms against oppressors cumming true! They can look out of their windows and doors at all the Blacks and Browns walking past and pretend that they are being oppressed and must defend themselves! Funny how that works, right? When you’re told that Black and Brown people are taking your country away from you, when you look at Black and Brown people, you feel threatened. When you’re told that using violence is necessary to stop the changes in our country, you are more likely to use violence when you feel threatened whether that is being asked to wear a mask, road rage, or seeing Black people living normal lives doing things that white people do all the time.
Increases in violence in our society only serve one purpose, keeping our society and culture chaotic and people divided into distrustful groups. And, that helps keep us from effectively unrigging the system so that it serves the interests of of the middle and lower classes more than the 1%.