COVID-19 and Gun Violence: Keeping Unknown Shocks and Volatility in Perspective

AuthorDae-Young Kim
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/07340168221088571
Published date01 June 2023
Date01 June 2023
Subject MatterArticles
COVID-19 and Gun Violence:
Keeping Unknown Shocks and
Volatility in Perspective
Dae-Young Kim
Abstract
The current study estimates the varying effects of the pandemic on gun violence by social distancing
type, fatality, and location. Interrupted time series analyses are used to examine weekly crime data
from 2016 to 2020 in New York City. Box-Cox power transformation and GARCH techniques are
used to address the problems of non-normality and heteroscedasticity in the models. There were sig-
nicant increases in fatal and non-fatal shootings during the relaxation of social distancing. The impact of
the BLM protests and depolicing is signicant for non-fatal shootings. The pandemic led to greater
increases in gun violence in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, as opposed to Staten
Island. In addition, there is some evidence of increases in the volatility of gun violence during the pan-
demic. High volatility impliescrime rates are in severe ux, which then leads to greater uncertainty and
fear for public safety. This paper surfaces useful information for guiding policy and practice.
Keywords
COVID-19, ARCH/GARCH, gun violence, shootings, social distancing
Introduction
As the coronavirus has spread widely across many countries, the World Health Organization (WHO)
declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic in March 2020 (WHO, 2020). The pandemic
is not an exception to the United States. Since the rst cases of the coronavirus were conrmed in
January 2020, the number of reported cases has exponentially increased across the country.
Various types of containment measures were issued to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, includ-
ing closures of schools, daycares, non-essential workplaces, and borders (Kaimann & Tanneberg,
2021). The implementation of containment measures differed across places in onset, length, and
intensity (Mervosh et al., 2020; Ortiz & Hauck, 2020).
There have been unintended consequences of the pandemic on gun violence. As a result of the
pandemic and social distancing, individuals are forced to be physically isolated, deal with
State University of New York Buffalo State
Corresponding Author:
Dae-Young Kim, Criminal Justice Department, State University of New York Buffalo State, 1300 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo,
NY 14222.
Email: kimd@buffalostate.edu
Article
Criminal Justice Review
2023, Vol. 48(2) 145-167
© 2022 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/07340168221088571
journals.sagepub.com/home/cjr
unexpected unemployment and pay cuts, suffer from serious medical complications, and/or experi-
ence a feeling of strain (American Psychological Association, 2020; Falk et al., 2020; United
Nations, 2020), all of which might have led to increases in gun violence. The empirical evidence
in the United States is mixed and inconclusive. Some studies found signicant increases in gun vio-
lence (Kim, 2022; Kim & Phillips, 2021; Rosenfeld & Lopez, 2020), while no signicant changes
were detected in other studies (Abrams, 2020; Campedelli et al., 2020). Overall, the pandemic-gun
violence association is signicant and greater in studies with relatively long-term post-pandemic
data. The pandemic might take several months to make an impact on gun violence. Given the
newness of the pandemic and a lack of sufcient evidence, further research should be performed
for more accurate conclusions correlating the pandemic and gun violence.
Using crime data from 2016 to 2020 in New York City, the current study explores the varying
effects of the pandemic on gun violence by social distancing type, fatality, and location.
Specically, this study analyzes whether gun violence decreased or increased under the SAHO
and/or during the relaxation of social distancing. In addition, this study will ll a gap in the literature
by disaggregating gun violence by fatality and borough, estimating how the impact of the pandemic
differs depending on whether a fatality occurs and where a shooting occurs. Furthermore, it
explores whether high unemployment rates during the pandemic are associated with increased
gun violence. Finally, the Box-Cox transformation and GARCH methods are used to deal with
the problems of heteroscedasticity and non-normality resulting from omitted variable bias,
which will improve the reliability of the study outcomes. GARCH modeling also allows for exam-
ining changes in the variance of gun violence and thereby explaining its volatility during the pan-
demic, which will provide important implications for both policy makers and practitioners. In the
following section, an overview of theoretical and empirical frameworks will be offered for the
study of gun violence during the pandemic.
Literature Review
Theoretical Background
Strain theory can explain increases in gun violence as a result of the pandemic and its corresponding
containment measures. It discusses why certain individuals or groups have higher crime rates than
others. Drawing on the work of Durkheim on suicide, Merton (1938) applied the concept of anomie
to explain high crimes in the United States. Crime is seen as a consequence of anomie or strain resulting
from a discrepancy between a cultural emphasis on material success and legitimate means to attain such
a goal (Merton, 1938; Messner & Rosenfeld, 1997, 2006). When people are caught in structural unem-
ployment, poverty, and inequality, they are more likely to rely on illegal but more convenient means
(i.e., crimes) out of monetary strain and/or to achieve socially ascribed economic goals. Another theo-
retical explanation of strain and crime is general strain theory, which expanded the sources of strain
beyond the failure to attain material success. Agnew (2006) identied three situations of crime-
producing strain: failure to attain commonly held goals (monetary success and social status), removal
of positive stimuli (the loss of intimate relationships and the death of family members), and presentation
of negative stimuli (isolation, insults, physical abuse, and criminal victimization).
To put the theories into context, it is important to discuss the underlying reasons for the pandemic-gun
violence association. People experienced psychological distress and strain through a range of negative
events, such as limited access to employment, quality health care, healthy diets, and social interaction
(United Nations, 2020). For example, the practice of social distancing meant to slow the spread of the coro-
navirus by limiting face-to-face contact among people. However, it had adverse impacts on individuals
mental health and wellbeing, including stress, frustration, loneliness, anxiety, and depression (Panchal
et al., 2021). In addition, the pandemic and containment orders forced many businesses and factories to
146 Criminal Justice Review 48(2)

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