A 2020 internal Department of Homeland Security memo obtained by ABC shows government officials warned of increased violence and crime when the COVID-19 lockdown eased and life returned to normal.
Their predictions have proven to be accurate as violent crime is on the uptick nationwide. The memo, which had not been previously made public, urged health and government officials to prepare some sort of “action plan” for how to quell violence once the virus eased up and people began gathering again. The memo reads, “The outbreak of Covid-19, and government’s response to it, have intensified concerns that could accelerate mobilization to violence with extended periods of social distancing,” and goes on to point out that isolation such as the type required for over a year due to COVID-19 is a known risk factor for violent extremism.
The memo adds that other pandemic-related stressors, such as job loss, financial strain and the mental and emotional toll of the pandemic may likely “increase the vulnerability of some citizens to mobilize to violence.” The predictions made in the DHS memo have unfortunately largely come to fruition as the country has reopened. Mass shootings and other gun violence rates are up in major cities, with the Gun Violence Archive reporting 540 shootings across the country over the July 4th weekend alone, killing 189 and injuring 516 people nationwide.
Road rage incidents have also increased in the United States. Everytown for Gun Safety reported that so far in 2021, there has been one person shot or killed in a road rage incident every 18 hours. This is a significantly higher rate than previous years, and Everytown reports the road rage incidents involving firearms have almost doubled in the last 12 months. Experts point to the same factors listed in the DHS memo, with many publicly predicting in 2020 that the long-term isolation of COVID-19 would lead to an increase in violence.
UC Davis Professor and member of the school’s Violence Prevention Research Program, Shani Buggs, told The Washington Post, “What we have is compounded trauma. The pandemic exacerbated all of the inequities we had in our country — along racial lines, health lines, social lines, economic lines. All of the drivers of gun violence pre-pandemic were just worsened last year.”
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: KOIN.COM
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