There were 6% more murders nationally in 2021 than in 2020. That’s a troubling statistic, but modest when compared to the prior year, when the U.S. murder rate climbed nearly 30%, a year-over-year record.
That big increase “was a complex combination of factors related to or potentially exacerbated by the pandemic but not inherently the pandemic itself,” said Jeff Asher, co-founder of data consulting firm AH Analytics.
The pandemic was a major catalyst in the rise in murder, but wasn’t the only factor.
“There was a massive surge in legal purchases of guns during the pandemic,” Abt said. “A larger share of those legally purchased guns were diverted into the hands of criminals more quickly than normal.”
There were an estimated 21 million guns sold in the U.S. in 2020, breaking the previous record in 2016 of just over 16 million guns sold. In 2021, that number dropped slightly to a little less than 19 million.
The data shows that the rising trend in murder rates occurred all across the country.
However, there is some hope that the numbers may be turning around. Preliminary big city data from the first half of 2022 suggests that the murder rate may be declining year to date.