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Experts believe another reason for concern is the growing political polarization and distrust in U.S. institutions. Alongside this distrust is also a sense of lawlessness stemming from police violence. Americans’ lack of trust in law enforcement, education, the government and the economy feeds social discord, Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College told Yahoo News.

“The factors over the last couple of years have begun to erode the social contract that many people had formed,” he said. “As a result, you see conflict in society.”

 

In many ways, Americans are feeling frustrated with the U.S. government, the economy and their fellow citizens. According to a March study from Gallup, roughly three-quarters of Americans are dissatisfied with where the country is heading. This has risen significantly since 2002, where the situation was nearly reversed, the study shows.

Political polarization is pushing a narrative that Americans need to take matters into their own hands. Liberals and conservatives are slowly beginning to see each other as enemies rather than fellow Americans, Dr. Kurtz claimed.

“You have this group on the right that wants to take back the country and a group on the left that wants to defund law enforcement,” he said. “People who disagree are going to lash out. Sometimes very violently.”

 


Guns play a significant role in violent crime

 

Looking back at many violent crimes that have happened in the past year, a common theme is gun violence. According to the FBI, over 38 million guns were sold in 2021, an increase of over 10 million since 2019. Violence can quickly turn into a homicide with the presence of firearms, according to a University of California at Irvine criminology professor Charis Kubrin.

“It’s a really potent combination of both rise in violence and sales in guns,” she said. “Absent a gun, you might just have an assault. Absent a gun, you might just have a robbery.”

Gun violence has dominated headlines in the past two years. The laws vary by state, the United States is one of the few countries where you can legally purchase and carry a firearm.

“We’re in an environment where you can just buy a gun,” Kurtz said. “The more frightened we are, the more likely we are to buy more guns.”

Where do we go from here?

It’s all not bad news. Studies show murder rates are still 30% lower than they were during peaks in the 1970s and 1990s. As rates of COVID-19 continue to drop in 2022, experts say a trend in the pandemic’s effects on crime and violence may follow.

“The reduction of COVID restrictions will take some of the pressure off all our shoulders,” Kenney said.

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