The double-digit rise in murders at the start of the coronavirus pandemic was felt more sharply in Democrat-leaning counties and had little or nothing to do with gun sales in those areas, new analysis reveals.
A study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank, sheds new light on the 30 per cent surge in murders between 2019 and 2020 that accompanied Covid-19 and a wave of protests over the death of George Floyd.
Analysts typically account for the rise in homicides to the social upheaval from pandemic lockdowns and the collapse in police-community ties over Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis in May 2020. Some say it was a red state phenomena.
But the analysis released this week by Christos Makridis and Robert VerBruggen points elsewhere, bolstering champions of law and order and undermining calls from campaigners to ‘defund the police’ and restrict gun ownership.
Their study of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other sources, which covered 290 urban counties home to 58 per cent of the US population, found Republican-leaning areas fared better against the homicide surge than others.
‘We find some evidence that suggests that the nation’s political cultures played a role, with homicide increases in GOP-leaning counties tending to be smaller than those in Democratic-leaning counties,’ says the study.
For Makridis, this may show that local police forces deterred more crimes in areas where they had greater public support, as opposed to such liberal hubs as Portland, Oregon, where officers resigned en masse in 2020 amid widespread criticism and often-violent race protests.
‘Certain cities have done a better job at governance than others,’ Makridis told DailyMail.com.
‘GOP-leaning counties have slightly stronger enforcement, or give more support to police, and it comes with a whole slew of activities that help the police feel comfortable – that’s certainly one theory.’
The states with the greatest murder rate increases in 2020 included New York, Pennsylvania, California, Montana and South Dakota, according to Pew Research Center, but Makridis says his study is more detailed as it drills down to the county level.
The researchers also weighed other popular explanations for the murder spike, but found no connection either to higher rates of gun sales, which also shot up in 2020, and areas with higher Covid-19 infection rates.
Firearms are used in about three quarters of homicides, according to FBI data.
‘A lot of people like to point to gun ownership as an issue… There isn’t really a strong correlation’ said Makridis.
‘These issues are so complex … it’s a simple thing to point the finger at.’
Still, the researchers also found that the worst victims of the homicide surge were members of minority communities who were already living in areas with high crime and murder rates before Covid-19 swept the US.
The homicide rates for black Americans rose by about 34 per cent in 2020 compared to 19 per cent for non-Hispanic whites. Given that already-high black homicide, the resulting death toll was particularly stark, says the report.