According to the scientific literature, American children face a substantial risk of exposure to firearm injury and death. Following are additional relevant gun violence facts:
Gun Violence Facts: In the Home
- There are more than 393 million guns in circulation in the United States — approximately 120.5 guns for every 100 people.
- 1.7 million children live with unlocked, loaded guns - 1 out of 3 homes with kids have guns.
- In 2015, 2,824 children (age 0 to 19 years) died by gunshot and an additional 13,723 were injured.
- An emergency department visit for non-fatal assault injury places a youth at 40 percent higher risk for subsequent firearm injury.
- 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, the majority (89%) 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.
- People who report “firearm access” are at twice the risk of homicide and more than three times the risk of suicide compared to those who do not own or have access to firearms.
- 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.
- States implementing universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods prior to the purchase of a firearm show lower rates of suicides than states without this legislation. To read more about suicide and firearms, click here.
- 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 Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws 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. Read more about the impact of child exposure to domestic violence.
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 two 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.
- More than 75 percent of first and second graders know where their parents keep their firearms and 36 percent admitted handling the weapons, contradicting their parents’ reports.
- More than 80 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.
Gun Violence Facts: Assault-style Weapons
- These weapons are responsible for a minority of gun deaths in the US, but have become the weapon of choice for the assailant whose intent is chaos and casualties.
- In an April 2018 review of mass shootings in the U.S., 99 mass shootings have occurred since 1982, from which approximately 76 semi-automatic handguns and 89 assault weapons and weapons with high magazine capacity were recovered.
- On May 18, 2018, a teen shooter used a shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver that he took from his father to kill 10 people and wound 10 others at Santa Fe High School in Texas; this marked the 1,686th mass shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
- In 2017 alone, 11 mass shootings in the US caused 117 fatalities and 587 injuries occurring in concert, religious, workplace, airport, and shopping venues and in the community.
- At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012, Adam Lanza reportedly fired more than 150 shots in less than five minutes from his assault-style rifle with a high capacity magazine.
- On June 12, 2016 at Pulse Nightclub, a single shooter killed 49 people and injured 53. It was the worst mass shooting in US history until the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017 took 58 lives and left 546 injured.
- In February 2018, a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL left 17 people dead and 14 wounded. The teen shooter used an AR-15 semi-automatic style weapon, the same weapon used during the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
- 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.
- Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated that from 1982 to 2011, mass shootings occurred every 200 days on average. From late 2011 to 214, they found mass shootings had occurred at triple that rate—every 64 days on average.
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.
- In 2013, following the Sandy Hook shooting, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order calling for the CDC to “conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it”. Despite this and without specific appropriations from U.S. Congress, new research proposals remain unfunded.
- 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.
- In March 2018, a new spending bill clarified that the CDC can conduct research into gun violence but did not allocate specific funding toward this effort.
Pennsylvania-specific Gun Violence Facts
- According to the CDC, there were 1,555 firearm fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2016.
- In 2014 there were 1,217 firearm related injuries in Pennsylvania; almost half of these were in persons under 25 years old. Almost half (532) of all firearm related injuries in Pennsylvania occurred in Philadelphia County. The firearm mortality rate for Pennsylvania is 12 per 100,000 people, slightly higher than the national average and higher than any of our neighboring states.
- In Pennsylvania, suicide and homicide accounts for over 96 percent of all firearm-related deaths according to data collected from 2010-2014.
- 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.
Read more about the issue and about public health approaches to gun violence on the Research in Action Blog.
Updated May 2018: There are numerous sources for the facts and statistics listed above including databases from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Mother Jones; research reports from Congressional Research Service, US General Accounting Office, Brady Campaign, and Every Town for Gun Safety; news articles from Mother Jones, Washington Post, New York Times; and many peer-reviewed journal articles. This page was reviewed by physician-scientists from the Violence Prevention Initiative. If you would like to request a specific citation, please use the website’s Contact Us form.