From Philadelphia to Portland, cities across the United States are experiencing spikes in gun violence on warm days. Researchers have begun to explore heat as a contributor to firearm violence, but current research on this subject is limited, focusing only on a few cities.
Now, a new study by Boston University School of Public Health and the University of Washington School of Social Work provides a first-of-its-kind analysis of heat-attributable shootings as a nationwide problem.
Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the study found a consistent relationship between higher temperatures and higher risk of shootings in 100 of the country’s most populated cities.
The comprehensive study reveals that nearly seven percent of shootings can be attributed to above-average daily temperatures, even after adjusting for seasonal patterns. The findings indicate that the Northeast and Midwest regions experience the sharpest increases in gun violence on hotter-than-normal days.
“Our study provides strong evidence that daily temperature plays a meaningful role in gun violence fluctuations,” says study senior author Dr.Jonathan Jay, assistant professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, director of BUSPH’s Research on Innovations for Safety and Equity (RISE) Lab, and a partnering faculty member of Boston University’sCenter for Climate and Health (BU CCH). “Even though some regions showed larger or smaller effects, the general pattern is remarkably consistent across cities.”
Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children and teens, and this violence has worsened substantially during the pandemic. As climate change threatens to raise daily temperatures even more, the researchers say these findings underscore the need for ongoing policies and programs that acclimate communities to heat and mitigate the risk of heat-attributable gun violence.
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