By Gerry Hills, Gun Violence Awareness Task Force chairperson
We are living in uncertain and unsettling times. People are scared and looking for ways to keep themselves and their families safe. Washing our hands, social distancing and wearing masks and gloves are becoming the new normal. Unfortunately for some the response has been to go out and purchase a firearm for “protection”, when in truth a gun in the home increases the risk of death or injury.
In March Americans bought about one-million new guns. Thirty states, including Arizona and Nevada, have exempted gun stores from stay-at-home orders, deeming them “essential businesses”. Arizona reported 73,039 new gun sales in March, an increase of 123% over the previous month! Nevada residents bought 19,867 guns, more than double than in February 2020.
The surge of guns sales in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is incredibly dangerous which will pose immediate and long-term safety threats to the public. When people buy a gun without taking the proper training, if the guns are not stored safely or background checks are completed the instances of gun violence increases. More guns added to the stress of the pandemic raise rates of suicide, homicide, community violence and unintended injuries and deaths.
Data shows that 46 communities from every region in America are reporting an increase in calls to domestic violence hotlines. In Arizona domestic violence calls are up 6% in March 2020, Nevada is reporting a 12% increase. On March 29th Commander Greg Carnicle, a 31 year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, was shot and killed responding to a domestic dispute call in north Phoenix. Two other officers were wounded and are expected to make a full recovery. There are similar reports of DV related shootings in California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. If you are in an abusive situation please call the 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233 for help.
Mental health professionals are predicting a jump of 17% in suicide rates in 2020-2021 as
the stress of unemployment, down turn in the economy and being socially isolated impacts individuals. For many people attempting suicide is an impulsive decision. Easy access to a load unsecured firearm can turn a momentary impulse into a fatal outcome, 2/3 of all gun deaths are suicides. If you or a family member are in need of support please call the National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.
Roughly 4.6 million children live in a home with an unlocked, loaded gun. 73% of those children reported knowing the location of those guns. 36% of kids admitted to handling the firearms without their parents knowledge. If you own a firearm, please make sure it is stored safely, ask if there are guns in the homes your children or grandchildren visit and how they are stored.
For more on this topic listen to an interview I did recently with Lauren Gilger of KJZZ radio.
This is a time for Christians to lean into our faith. Isaiah 43:1 tells us “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” Let us continue to pray for our communities and our nation, for those who are forced to shelter with their abuser, those in crisis who allow fear to drive their decisions. There will be time in the future to assess the collateral damage done by the pandemic. We pray a spike in gun deaths and injuries is not one of them.
Gun Violence Awareness Task Force.