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This special collection brings together evidence and insights from nonprofits, foundations, and research organizations working to understand the full impact of firearm use and gun violence in the US. By providing us with analyses of current state and federal laws as well as valuable data on suicides, homicides, accidents, and mass shootings, these organizations seek to inform sound public policy and to curb this ongoing public health epidemic.

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"Gun Violence" by M+R Glasgow licensed under CC 2.0

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The Bureau and the Bureau

May 19, 2015

After two years of research into ATF's history, work, and challenges, CAP recommends merging it into the FBI to create a federal law enforcement agency with the leadership, resources, and political support necessary to help reform the gun industry and reduce gun violence in the United States. 

Assault Weapons Revisited: Policy Options for Regulating Rifles, Shotguns, and Other Firearms 20 Years After the Passage of the Assault Weapons Ban

September 1, 2014

20 years after President Bill Clinton signed the federal assault weapons ban into law in September 1994 and a decade after Congress allowed that law to lapse -- the question of whether and how to regulate particularly lethal firearms is no longer the primary focus of the national gun debate. In the wake of the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, President Barack Obama, congressional leaders, and gun-violence prevention advocates alike made deterring dangerous people from accessing guns the top legislative priority with a proposal for comprehensive background checks for all gun sales. This shift in focus to prevent dangerous people from accessing guns is appropriate: A broad set of research suggests that such measures are effective in reducing gun violence. Additionally, there is overwhelming support in opinion polls for expanding background checks and similar measures aimed at restricting dangerous people from accessing guns. But the debate persists about whether and how to best regulate assault rifles and other types of firearms that may pose heightened risks to public safety. For more than 20 years, there has generally been only one policy solution offered in this debate: a ban on assault weapons.This report considers how gun laws have evolved to address different classes of firearms and looks more broadly at how federal and state laws treat rifles and shotguns differently than handguns and whether all of those distinctions continue to make sense. It also examines data on the changing nature of gun violence and the increasing use of long guns and assault rifles by criminals, with a focus on Pennsylvania as a case study.

Policy Recommendations & Models

Women Under the Gun: How Gun Violence Affects Women and 4 Policy Solutions to Better Protect Them

June 17, 2014

Every day in the United States, five women are murdered with guns. Many of these fatal shootings occur in the context of a domestic or intimate partner relationship. However, women are not the only victims. Shooters have often made children, police officers, and their broader communities additional targets of what begins as an intimate partner shooting. In fact, one study found that more than half of the mass shootings in recent years have started with or involved the shooting of an intimate partner or a family member. Enacting a comprehensive set of laws and enforcement strategies to disarm domestic abusers and stalkers will reduce the number of women who are murdered by abusers with guns -- and it will make all Americans safer.

Policy Recommendations & Models; Statistics & Surveys

The Gun Debate 1 Year After Newtown: Assessing Six Key Claims About Gun Background Checks

December 1, 2013

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, reignited the debate on whether to strengthen federal and state gun laws. Soon after the massacre, the top priority for advocates for stronger gun laws became broadening background checks to apply to all gun sales. Under current federal law, vendors in the business of selling guns must get a license, conduct background checks, and keep records. But unlicensed "private" sellers -- persons who maintain they sell only occasionally at gun shows, online, or anywhere else -- are able to sell guns with no questions asked. In some ways, the debate's emphasis on the universal background checks proposal was surprising -- after all, the Newtown shooter would not have been subject to federal prohibitions, other than the one that blocks handgun sales to persons under 21, and background checks were only tangentially related to the shooting. The ascendance of background checks as the primary policy proposal to combat gunviolence reflects a shift in gun-reform advocates' strategy from tightening regulations on guns themselves to strengthening laws that keep guns away from dangerous people. The shift had already begun before Newtown; after, it only accelerated.Both policy research and political realities informed this shift in priorities. As a policy matter, most research suggests that making it more difficult for dangerous people to acquire guns will have a significant impact in reducing the more than 30,000 gun deaths that happen every year in America. As a political matter, polling conducted before and after Newtown show that 80 percent to 90 percent of Americans support expanding background checks, including most gun owners.As the debate over the universal background checks proposal heated up before the Senate voted on the matter in April, discussion of the substantive benefits of this policy proposal was mostly lost in the fray. The background checks debate far too often devolved into sound bites, which gave rise to a number of widespread misunderstandings about the universal background checks proposal and its potential effects on gun violence in the United States.In this issue brief, we assess six key claims that have been made about background checks in the past year.

Policy Recommendations & Models

License to Kill: How Lax Concealed Carry Laws Can Combine with Stand Your Ground to Produce Deadly Results

September 1, 2013

The shooting death of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman's subsequent acquittal have focused the nation's attention on expansive self-defense laws -- so-called Stand Your Ground laws -- that enable an individual to use deadly force even in situations in which lesser force would suffice or in which the individual could safely retreat to avoid further danger. Leaders from around the country, including President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, have questioned how Florida's law -- which is similar to laws enacted in 21 other states -- may have contributed to the circumstances that led to Martin's death.Yet the Martin case also implicates another set of laws: the state laws governing who may carry concealed firearms -- the laws that put a gun in Zimmerman's hands in the first place. Under Florida law, even individuals such as Zimmerman, who have a criminal history and a record of domestic abuse, are generally entitled to a concealed carry permit, as long as they are not barred from gun possession under federal law and as long as their offense does not meet a very narrow range of additional exclusions under state law. If Zimmerman had applied for a permit in one of the many states with stronger permit requirements, his history of violence and domestic abuse would likely have disqualified him from obtaining a concealed carry permit. This case might then have had a very different outcome.These bodies of law -- Stand Your Ground and concealed carry permitting -- concern issues that are traditionally left to the states. In many ways, these issues are appropriately decided at the state level; the self-defense and concealed carry laws of New Jersey should not be imposed on Montana and vice versa. But there is an appropriate federal role. The federal government should ensure that states do not enact laws that have racially disparate impacts or significantly jeopardize public safety.

Policy Recommendations & Models

America Under the Gun: A 50-State Analysis of Gun Violence and its Link to Weak State Gun Laws

April 1, 2013

n the aftermath of mass shootings and other gun-related tragedies, there is often a surge of interest on the part of community leaders, social-science researchers, and elected officials to root out the causes of gun violence in an effort to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. Any study into the causes of gun violence is necessarily complicated, however, as there are innumerable factors that contribute to the nature and prevalence of gun-related violence in any community.Despite this complex web of factors that influence the rate of gun violence, this report finds a clear link between high levels of gun violence and weak state gun laws. Across the key indicators of gun violence that we analyzed, the 10 states with the weakest gun laws collectively have an aggregate level of gun violence that is more than twice as high—104 percent higher, in fact—than the 10 states with the strongest gun laws.The data analyzed in this report relate to the following 10 indicators of gun violence:1. Overall firearm deaths in 20102. Overall firearm deaths from 2001 through 20103. Firearm homicides in 20104. Firearm suicides in 20105. Firearm homicides among women from 2001 through 20106. Firearm deaths among children ages 0 to 17, from 2001 through 20107. Law-enforcement agents feloniously killed with a firearm from 2002 through 20118. Aggravated assaults with a firearm in 20119. Crime-gun export rates in 200910. Percentage of crime guns with a short "time to crime" in 2009Using these data, we rank each state according to the rate of each indicator of gun violence and create an overall ranking of the states across all 10 indicators, resulting in an overall state ranking for the prevalence of gun violence. Finally, we compare this overall state gun-violence ranking with a Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranking of states based on the strength of their gun laws.Our analysis determined that the following are the 10 states, by rank, that suffer the highest levels of gun violence:1. Louisiana2. Alaska3. Alabama4. Arizona5. Mississippi6. South Carolina7. New Mexico8. Missouri9. Arkansas10. GeorgiaThe Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence analysis shows that eight of these states are among the 25 states with the weakest gun laws.While the strength of a state's gun laws is just one factor in the prevalence of gun-related violence in the state and cannot alone account for gun violence, there is a clear link between weak gun laws and high levels of gun violence across the United States.