Q. What Does Gun Violence Look Like In The United States?
A. Every day in America, almost 100 people die because of gun violence and many more are shot, including 46 kids and teens. That’s just in ONE DAY. In ONE YEAR, 32,000 adults and 2,700 young people die from gunshots. This isn’t normal. America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than rates of similar countries.
Q. Does Gun Violence Impact Some People More Than Others?
A. Certain communities are definitely more at risk of gun violence.
Black men are 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with a gun. African American children also have the highest rate of gun deaths compared to their peers. The gun homicide rate for African American kids is 4 times higher than that of Hispanic children, and 10 times the rate of white children.
Anti-LGBTQ bias homicides are also on the rise. 2016 saw a record number of hate motivated killings against the LGBTQ community which included the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. 2017 went on to be the second deadliest year for the LGBTQ community on record so far with over two-thirds of those victims being from communities of color.
Domestic violence gun deaths also continue to plague our nation. Over 500 people were killed in domestic violence incidents with guns in 2017 alone. A woman is shot and killed by a current or former partner every 16 hours. In fact, women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun compared to a woman in a similar country.
It’s also noteworthy that 60% of gun deaths in America are suicides. Sadly, about 85 percent of suicide attempts with a gun are fatal.
Q. I Need Some Neutral, Nonpartisan Facts About Gun Violence In America. Can You Help?
A. The Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence in partnership with Team ENOUGH created a discussion guide to gun violence in America. The guide offers an overview on the legal framework for gun sales in America, facts on gun violence in America, and policy initiatives currently being considered by legislators. Grouped into four main discussion areas, this backgrounder is intended to support classroom discussions about gun violence prevention and to encourage students’ thinking and debate on the issue. It does not propose particular policy solutions.
Q. How Often Do Mass Shootings Happen?
A. The truth is that while high profile mass shootings receive a lot of media coverage, they only make up a small portion of the gun violence that happens in the U.S. Hundreds of shootings happen every week that never make it into the news. Every life lost should be a reminder to the media and our communities that this is a crisis that must be solved now.
Q. What Does The Constitution Say About Guns?
A. The Second Amendment reads that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Courts have the job of interpreting the Constitution, including the Second Amendment. In an influential case, the Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment means that responsible, law-abiding citizens can keep a handgun at home. It has not said whether that right extends to assault weapons, or whether people have the right under the Second Amendment to carry guns in public.
Q. What Is The Process Of Getting A Gun In The U.S.?
A. Unlike in many countries, buying a gun legally in the U.S. isn’t difficult. Anyone who is in the business of selling guns must have a gun dealer license. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms issues those licenses and regulates gun dealers. There are tens of thousands of licensed gun dealers in America. In fact, there are more licensed gun dealers in America than Starbucks and McDonald’s stores combined. Outside of federally licensed gun dealers, guns can still be purchased through private sales both online and at gun shows.
Q. How Do We Decide Who Can And Cannot Have A Gun In The U.S.?
A. In 1968 Congress passed the “Gun Control Act.” That law made it illegal for certain individuals -- the people we decided are too dangerous to own guns -- to buy or keep them under federal law. These people fall into categories like people convicted of felonies, domestic abusers, and fugitives from the law. When the Brady bill was passed in 1993, it made it so that every person buying a gun from a registered gun dealer needs to go through a background check, to make sure that they don’t fall into one of these categories. So far, since the Brady law was passed, over 3 million dangerous sales have been stopped.
Q. What Are The Laws On Assault Weapons?
A. While there used to be a federal assault weapon ban in place, that ban expired in 2004 and since then, assault weapons and high capacity magazines have been legal under federal law. Today, 7 states plus D.C. have some form of law preventing the sale of these weapons. Some of those state laws have been challenged, but ultimately they have been upheld by the courts. In shootings where assault weapons or large capacity magazines are used, 155% more people are shot and 47% more people die compared to shootings without them.
Q. What Are Extreme Risk Laws?
A. Time and time again, we see shooters’ behavior escalate, and we know there’s a way to prevent more violence - by limiting access to guns for those in periods of crisis. A few states already have these laws and Florida just enacted one. Although the state laws vary, they typically let family members or law enforcement go to court and ask a judge to temporarily remove guns when someone is in crisis. The affected person has a right to be heard by the judge. If the judge decides to issue an order to remove guns, it typically lasts for 21 days.
Q. How Can We Make The U.S. Safer From Gun Violence?
A. There are a few straightforward ways that we are focusing on to make the country safer from gun violence. Currently 1 in 5 gun sales happens without a background check. There is legislation in Congress to fix this that would require background checks for all gun sales, including the private sales that happen online and at gun shows. We’ve seen time and time again that assault weapons are the weapons of choice for mass shooters. Shootings where assault weapons are used result in 155% more people being shot. We can help limit this threat by banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines. In many shootings the suspect has shown warning signs. In the case of Parkland, police and even the FBI were warned about the shooter but didn’t have the tools needed to take action. Extreme risk laws have been passed in some states to make sure guns are removed from people that are deemed at risk of harming themselves or others, but we need to pass extreme risk laws at the federal level so people in all states can take action. Last, but certainly not least– vote! If members of Congress won’t pass laws to help save people from gun violence then we need new elected officials who will.
Q. Why Isn’t Congress Acting To Prevent Gun Violence From Happening?
A. Congressional members are elected to represent their constituents- the American people, but unfortunately, many members of Congress are more concerned with voting to secure the interests of companies and individuals that give them money. Groups like the NRA and other members of the gun lobby are focused on making sure that federal and state laws benefit gun manufacturers. These people care more about their bottom line then making sure our country is safe. In the past, reforming gun laws has been a politically difficult issue for many elected officials, but new polls show that it shouldn’t be a difficult issue any more. The majority of Americans agree- we need stronger gun laws. Today, the inability to pass gun reform has more to do with the gun lobby’s control over Congressional leadership than differences of opinion amongst the American public.