Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Gun Violence: Facts and Statistics

According to the scientific literature, American children face substantial risk of exposure to firearm injury and death. In 2014, 4,300 young people ages 10-24 were victims of homicide - an average of 12 each day. Following are additional relevant gun violence statistics:

Guns In the Home

  • There are more than 350 million guns in circulation in the United States — approximately 113 guns for every 100 people.
  • 1.7 million children live with unlocked, loaded guns - 1 out of 3 homes with kids have guns.
  • In 2014, 2,549 children (age 0 to 19 years) died by gunshot and an additional 13,576 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.

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.
  • 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.

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., 85 mass shootings occurred since 1982, from which 71 semi-automatic handguns 20 assault weapons, and 42 weapons with high magazine capacity were recovered.
  • At Sandy Hook 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.
  • On June 12, 2016 at Pulse Nightclub, a single shooter killed 49 people and injured 53. It is the worst mass shooting in US History.
  • 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. Since late 2011, they found, mass shootings have 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.

Pennsylvania-specific Statistics

  • According to the CDC, there were 1,485 firearm fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2015.
  • 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 11.4 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 2009-2013.
  • 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.

Updated March, 2017: 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 Violence Prevention Initiative. If you would like to request a specific citation, please use the website’s Contact Us form.