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Experts concerned over rise in gun sales, domestic violence cases in Utah

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Domestic violence cases continue to rise in Utah. (File photo: KUTV)

At the peak of the pandemic lockdown, Utah's domestic violence cases peaked. But now, as COVID cases are dropping, domestic violence continues to climb, as do gun sales.

Experts say it's proven to be a dangerous combination.

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These increases have a number of implications, but a dangerous one is that researchers say there is a direct correlation between more guns and more domestic violence fatalities.

FBI data shows that in 2018, approximately 300,000 Utahns applied for a new gun background check. By 2020, it was more than 1.2 million.

"Already in 2021, we are looking at about 422,000, and the year isn't even half over yet," said Sonia Solari, a professor at the University of Utah who's been researching the number of Utahns applying for gun background checks. "If you compare it to the other intermountain states, which you would also expect to see great rises, they don't have it the same way we do."

The increase could be for a number of reasons, including population increases and the hoarding tendencies we saw during the pandemic, Solari said. But more guns means more fatalities — in suicides, homicides, and domestic violence, research shows.

"With the access to lethal means, we see an increase in fatalities in relationships where abuse and violence already existed," said Jana Fulmer a licensed clinical mental health counselor with the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

Fulmer said the coalition has seen increased calls to the domestic violence hotline, as well as more domestic violence-related deaths.

The threat of a gun can make it harder for people to get out of abusive situations, Solari said.

There's a certain level of fatality risk with a firearm that is different from other types of weapons," she said.

Both women want people to know there are so many resources available for people who need help, advice or a safety plan. You can reach out to the domestic violence coalition 24/7 for confidential help by texting or calling 801-897-LINK.