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Intersection of Surging Firearm Sales and COVID-19, Psychological Distress, and Health Disparities in the US—A Call for Action

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

Mass shooting events (eg, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino) and national elections have historically been associated with increased firearm sales in the US.1 Against the backdrop of other salient phenomena that have occurred in 2020—the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, rising psychological distress, police violence against minority groups, protests for racial justice, and highly polarized politics—the popular press has reported increased firearm acquisition. In a methodologically rigorous, cross-sectional population-representative, survey of 2870 adults in California, Kravitz-Wirtz and colleagues2 analyzed public concern about (1) violence against themselves and others, (2) the prevalence of and reasons for firearm and ammunition acquisition, and (3) firearm storage practices. Their findings demonstrate that concern about violence has increased robustly during the pandemic. Specifically, survey respondents expressed concern that someone they know may intentionally harm another person (12.2%) or themselves (13.1%) owing to experiencing pandemic-related losses. The authors estimated that approximately 110 000 Californians acquired firearms due to the pandemic, including approximately 47 000 new owners who primarily acquired them for self-protection. Nearly 1 in 5 respondents reported storing at least 1 firearm loaded and not locked up, with approximately 7% of these owners reporting this change in storage practice owing to the pandemic. Of owners who stored firearms in this way, half lived in households with children. These findings are highly pertinent with regard to 3 matters that require attention amid the current charged social and political context: (1) implications for safe storage initiatives broadly; (2) safe storage initiatives specific to suicide prevention amid rising psychological distress; and (3) the intersection of these matters within an inequitable society that is rife with health disparities for racial/ethnic minority communities.

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CME Disclosure Statement: Unless noted, all individuals in control of content reported no relevant financial relationships. If applicable, all relevant financial relationships have been mitigated.

Article Information

Published: January 4, 2021. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.34017

Open Access: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the CC-BY License. © 2021 Hoskins K et al. JAMA Network Open.

Corresponding Author: Rinad Beidas, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3535 Market St. 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (rbeidas@upenn.edu).

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Hoskins reported receiving a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (T32MH109433; postdoctoral trainee) during the conduct of the study. Dr Beidas reported receiving a grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH123491 and T32 MH109433) during the conduct of the study; grants from the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute of Nuring Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Psoriasis Foundation, Veterans Affairs Quality Enhancement Research Initiative, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; royalties from Oxford University Press; served as a consultant to Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers; and receives an honorarium for servind on the Optum Behavioral Health Clinical Scientific Advisory Council.

References
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2.
Kravitz-Wirtz  N , Aubel  A , Schleimer  J , Pallin  R , Wintemute  G.   Public concern about violence, firearms, and the COVID-19 pandemic in California.   JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(1):e2033484. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.33484Google Scholar
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