Gun Violence: Facts and Statistics

According to the scientific literature, American children face substantial risk of exposure to firearm injury and death. Following are relevant gun violence statistics:

Guns in the home

  • There are more than 310 million guns in circulation in the United States — approximately 90 guns for every 100 people.
  • In 2010, 2,711 children (age 0 to 19 years) died by gunshot and an additional 15,576 were injured.
  • Those people that die from accidental shooting were more than three times as likely to have had a firearm in their home as those in the control group.
  • Among children, 89 percent of unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home. Most of these deaths occur when children are playing with a loaded gun in their parent’s absence.
  • Suicide rates are much higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership, even after controlling for differences among states for poverty, urbanization, unemployment, mental illness, and alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Among suicide victims requiring hospital treatment, suicide attempts with a firearm are much more deadly than attempts by jumping or drug poisoning — 90 percent die compared to 34 percent and 2 percent respectively. About 90 percent of those that survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide.
  • In states with increased gun availability, death rates from gunshots for children were higher than in states with less availability.
    • The vast majority of accidental firearm deaths among children are related to child access to firearms — either self-inflicted or at the hands of another child.
    • Studies have shown that states with CAP laws have a lower rate of unintentional death than states without CAP laws.
  • Domestic violence is more likely to turn deadly with a gun in the home. An abusive partner’s access to a firearm increases the risk of homicide eight-fold for women in physically abusive relationships.

Safe storage of guns in the home

  • The U.S. General Accounting Office estimated that 31 percent of accidental deaths caused by firearms might be prevented with the addition of 2 devices: a child-proof safety lock and a loading indicator.
  • Approximately one of three handguns guns is kept loaded and unlocked and most children know where their parents keep their guns.
  • 73 percent of children under age 10 know where their parents keep their firearms and 36 percent admitted handling the weapons, contradicting their parents’ reports.  
  • More than 75 percent of guns used by youth in suicide attempts were kept in the home of the victim, a relative, or a friend.
  • Gun owners in a household (predominantly men) are more likely to report that their gun is stored unlocked and loaded, compared to the non-owners (predominantly women) in those households. This argues for better education of household members regarding safe storage in homes with children.

Assault-style weapons 

  • These weapons are responsible for a minority of guns deaths in the US, but have become the weapon of choice for the assailant whose intent is chaos and casualties.
  • In a review of mass shootings in the U.S., 62 mass shootings occurred during a 30 year period from which 68 semi-automatic handguns and 35 assault weapons were recovered.
  • In 2012, seven mass shootings in the U.S. took 151 lives.
  • At an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Adam Lanza reportedly fired more than 150 shots in less than five minutes from his assault-style rifle with a high capacity magazine.
  • States that restrict assault weapons also have the lowest per capita homicide rates. However, because guns are easily trafficked in interstate and international commerce, federal rules are needed. 

Gun injury prevention research

  • Federal legislation passed in 1997 stated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The vague nature of this law, and its 2011 extension to the National Institutes of Health, has effectively prevented federal funding for firearms-related research.
  • After the federal legislation preventing firearm research, there were 25 percent fewer publications on firearms compared to what would have been expected relative to other causes of death in children.

Pennsylvania-specific statistics:

  • According to the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation, every year about 400 children under age 20 are treated for firearm injuries in the Commonwealth. This number does not count the children who die at the scene like most firearm suicide victims.
  • In 2011 there were 1,487 firearm related injuries in Pennsylvania; almost half of these were in persons under 25 years old.
  • Almost half of all firearm related injuries in Pennsylvania occurred in Philadelphia County.
  • The firearm mortality rate for Pennsylvania is 10 per 100,000 people, exactly the national average and higher than our bordering states. There is room for improvement.
  • In Pennsylvania, 60 percent of the deaths by firearm are suicide, 40 percent are homicide.
  • Self-injury of Pennsylvanians by firearm is fatal 91 percent of the time, compared to hanging and poisonings which are fatal 79 percent and 3 percent of the time, respectively.