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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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Views of democracy and society and support for political violence in the USA: findings from a nationally representative survey

September 29, 2023

BackgroundCurrent conditions in the USA suggest an increasing risk for political violence. Little is known about the prevalence of beliefs that might lead to political violence, about support for and personal willingness to engage in political violence, and about how those measures vary with individual characteristics, lethality of violence, political objectives that violence might advance, or specific populations as targets.MethodsThis cross-sectional US nationally representative survey was conducted on May 13 to June 2, 2022, of adult members of the Ipsos KnowledgePanel. Outcomes are weighted, population-representative proportions of respondents endorsing selected beliefs about American democracy and society and violence to advance political objectives.ResultsThe analytic sample included 8620 respondents; 50.5% (95% confidence interval (CI) 49.3%, 51.7%) were female; and weighted mean (± standard deviation) age was 48.4 (± 18.0) years. Nearly 1 in 5 (18.9%, 95% CI 18.0%, 19.9%) agreed strongly or very strongly that "having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy"; 16.2% (95% CI 15.3%, 17.1%) agreed strongly or very strongly that "in America, native-born white people are being replaced by immigrants," and 13.7% (95% CI 12.9%, 14.6%) agreed strongly or very strongly that "in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States." One-third of respondents (32.8%, 95% CI 31.7%, 33.9%) considered violence to be usually or always justified to advance at least 1 of 17 specific political objectives. Among all respondents, 7.7% (95% CI 7.0%, 8.4%) thought it very or extremely likely that within the next few years, in a situation where they believe political violence is justified, "I will be armed with a gun"; 1.1% (95% CI 0.9%, 1.4%) thought it very or extremely likely that "I will shoot someone with a gun." Support for political violence and for the use of firearms in such violence frequently declined with increasing age, education, and income.ConclusionsSmall but concerning proportions of the population consider violence, including lethal violence, to be usually or always justified to advance political objectives. Prevention efforts should proceed urgently based on the best evidence available.

Trends in Domestic Violence and Firearm Domestic Violence During COVID‑19 in Five US Cities

July 21, 2023

PurposeThe COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social and economic disruptions may be associated with increased risk for reported domestic violence (DV) and firearm-involved DV (FDV). This study examines trends in DV, FDV, and the proportion of DV incidents that involved firearms (FDV/DV) in five large US cities before and during the coronavirus pandemic.MethodWe examined monthly trends in DV and FDV during January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2020, which included the early part of the pandemic, using Poisson or negative binomial regressions. We used binomial regressions to assess trends in FDV/DV. We considered the onset of the pandemic to be March 2020.ResultsFindings varied across outcomes and cities. DV decreased in three cities: Kansas City (Incidence Rate Ratio (IRR), 0.88; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.86–0.90), Los Angeles (IRR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.99–1.00), and Nashville (IRR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.99–1.00) relative to trends pre-pandemic. FDV increased in three cities: Chicago (IRR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02–1.08), Los Angeles (IRR, 1.08; 95% CI, 1.06–1.10), and Nashville (IRR, 1.03; 95% CI, 1.01–1.05) and decreased in one: Kansas City (IRR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.87–0.90). FDV/DV increased in three cities: Chicago (Risk Ratio (RR), 1.04; 95% CI, 1.02–1.06), Los Angeles (RR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.07–1.11), and Nashville (RR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.02–1.06).ConclusionsWe found variation among cities in trends in reported DV, FDV, and FDV/DV during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic. Variation may be due to a number of factors, including differences in baseline DV and FDV rates; economic strain and unemployment; compliance with social distancing; firearm ownership and purchasing; the availability of DV services; delays in court processing and the early release of prisoners; and community-law enforcement relations.

Anticipatory concerns about violence within social networks: Prevalence and implications for prevention

January 11, 2023

Most research on exposure to violence focuses on direct victimization, offending, or witnessed violence, yet many people also experience concerns about potential violence in their environments and social networks. Using a state-representative survey of California adults (n = 2870) administered in July 2020, we estimate the prevalence of anticipatory concerns about violence within respondents' social networks and describe characteristics of the persons at perceived risk of violence, reasons for respondents' concerns, and actions undertaken by respondents to reduce that risk. Approximately 1 in 5 respondents knew at least one person, usually a friend or extended family member, whom they perceived to be at risk of other- or self-directed violence. Among respondents living with the person at perceived risk, about one-quarter reported household firearm ownership. Alcohol and substance misuse and a history of violence were among respondents' top reasons for concern; serious mental illness and firearm access also contributed to concerns. About one-quarter of respondents with such concerns said harm was likely or very likely to occur in the next year. Most respondents reported having taken action to reduce the risk of violence, including providing resources and asking family or friends to help; few acted to reduce access to lethal means. The most common reasons for inaction were the perception that a dangerous situation was unlikely and that it was a personal matter. Our findings can help inform a broader understanding of exposure to violence and interventions that leverage the knowledge of those close to persons at risk to prevent violence.

Machine Learning Analysis of Handgun Transactions to Predict Firearm Suicide Risk

July 11, 2022

Importance  Evidence suggests that limiting access to firearms among individuals at high risk of suicide can be an effective means of suicide prevention, yet accurately identifying those at risk to intervene remains a key challenge. Firearm purchasing records may offer a large-scale and objective data source for the development of tools to predict firearm suicide risk.Objective  To test whether a statewide database of handgun transaction records, coupled with machine learning techniques, can be used to forecast firearm suicide risk.Design, Setting, and Participants  This prognostic study used the California database of 4 976 391 handgun transaction records from 1 951 006 individuals from January 1, 1996, to October 6, 2015. Transaction-level random forest classification was implemented to predict firearm suicide risk, and the relative predictive power of features in the algorithm was estimated via permutation importance. Analyses were performed from December 1, 2020, to May 19, 2022.Main Outcomes and Measures  The main outcome was firearm suicide within 1 year of a firearm transaction, derived from California death records (1996-2016). With the use of California's Dealer's Records of Sale (1996-2015), 41 handgun, transaction, purchaser, and community-level predictor variables were generated.Results  There are a total of 4 976 391 transactions in the California's Dealer's Record of Sale database representing 1 951 006 individuals (1 525 754 men [78.2% of individuals]; mean [SD] age, 43.4 [13.9] years). Firearm suicide within 1 year occurred in 0.07% of handgun transactions (3278 transactions among 2614 individuals). A total of 38.6% of observed firearm suicides were among transactions classified in the highest-risk ventile (379 of 983 transactions), with 95% specificity. Among the small number of transactions with a random forest score above 0.95, more than two-thirds (24 of 35 [68.6%]) were associated with a purchaser who died by firearm suicide within 1 year. Important features included known risk factors, such as older age at first purchase, and previously unreported predictors, including distance to firearms dealer and month of purchase.Conclusions and Relevance  This prognostic study presented the first large-scale machine learning analysis of individual-level handgun transaction records. The results suggested the potential utility of such records in identifying high-risk individuals to aid suicide prevention efforts. It also identified handgun, individual, and community characteristics that have strong predictive relationships with firearm suicide and may warrant further study.

Implementation and perceived effectiveness of gun violence restraining orders in California: A qualitative evaluation

October 19, 2021

BackgroundUptake of gun violence restraining orders (GVROs), which temporarily prohibit the possession and purchase of firearms and ammunition from individuals at particularly high risk of harming themselves or others with a firearm, has been slow and heterogenous across California. Insights into the implementation process and perceived effectiveness of the law could guide implementation in California and the many states that have enacted or are considering enacting such a law.MethodsWe conducted 21 semi-structured interviews with 27 key informants, including judges, law enforcement officers, city and district attorneys, policy experts, and firearm violence researchers. Analysis of transcripts was guided by grounded theory and the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR).FindingsThe following constructs emerged within 4 CFIR domains as salient features of implementation: 1) implementation characteristics: risk of violence, cost, and adaptability; 2) outer setting: interagency coordination and local firearm ideology; 3) inner setting: readiness for implementation and law enforcement firearm culture; and 4) implementation process: planning and engaging with those involved in implementation. Key informants perceived the law to be effective, particularly for preventing firearm suicide, but agreed that more research was needed. While most indicated that the law resulted in positive outcomes, concerns about the potential for class- and race-based inequities were also raised.ConclusionsImplementation of the GVRO law in California was hampered by a lack of funding to support local proactive implementation efforts. This resulted in ad hoc policies and procedures, leading to inconsistent practices and widespread confusion among those responsible for implementation. In states that have not begun implementation, we recommend dedicating funding for implementation and creating local procedures statewide prior to the law's rollout. In California, recommendations include providing training on the GVRO law—including an explication of agency-specific roles, responsibilities, and procedures—to officers, city attorneys, and civil court judges.

Effects of Policies Designed to Keep Firearms from High-Risk Individuals

January 7, 2015

This article summarizes and critiques available evidence from studies published between 1999 and August 2014 on the effects of policies designed to keep firearms from high-risk individuals in the United States. Some prohibitions for high-risk individuals (e.g., those under domestic violence restraining orders, violent misdemeanants) and procedures for checking for more types of prohibiting conditions are associated with lower rates of violence. Certain laws intended to prevent prohibited persons from accessing firearms -- rigorous permit-to-purchase, comprehensive background checks, strong regulation and oversight of gun dealers, and requiring gun owners to promptly report lost or stolen firearms -- are negatively associated with the diversion of guns to criminals. Future research is needed to examine whether these laws curtail nonlethal gun violence and whether the effects of expanding prohibiting conditions for firearm possession are modified by the presence of policies to prevent diversion.

Policy Recommendations & Models; Purchasing Firearms

The Epidemiology of Firearm Violence in the Twenty-First Century United States

December 12, 2014

This brief review summarizes the basic epidemiology of firearm violence, a large and costly public health problem in the United States for which the mortality rate has remained unchanged for more than a decade. It presents findings for the present in light of recent trends. Risk for firearm violence varies substantially across demographic subsets of the population and between states in patterns that are quite different for suicide and homicide. Suicide is far more common than homicide and its rate is increasing; the homicide rate is decreasing. As with other important health problems, most cases of fatal firearm violence arise from large but low-risk subsets of the population; risk and burden of illness are not distributed symmetrically. Compared with other industrialized nations, the United States has uniquely high mortality rates from firearm violence.

Statistics & Surveys

Support for a Comprehensive Background Check Requirement and Expanded Denial Criteria for Firearm Transfers: Findings from the Firearms Licensee Survey

November 8, 2013

Federal and state policies on eligibility to purchase and possess firearms and background check requirements for firearm transfers are undergoing intensive review and, in some cases, modification. Our objective in this third report from the Firearms Licensee Survey (FLS) is to assess support among federally licensed firearms retailers (gun dealers and pawnbrokers) for a background check requirement on all firearm transfers and selected criteria for denying the purchase of handguns based on criminal convictions, alcohol abuse, and serious mental illness. The FLS was conducted by mail during June–August, 2011 on a random sample of 1,601 licensed dealers and pawnbrokers in 43 states who were believed to sell at least 50 firearms annually. The response rate was 36.9 %, typical of establishment surveys using such methods. Most respondents (55.4 %) endorsed a comprehensive background check requirement; 37.5 % strongly favored it. Support was more common and stronger among pawnbrokers than dealers and among respondents who believed that "it is too easy for criminals to get guns." Support was positively associated with many establishment characteristics, including sales of inexpensive handguns, sales that were denied when the purchasers failed background checks, and sales of firearms that were later subjected to ownership tracing, and were negatively associated with sales at gun shows. Support for three existing and nine potential criteria for denial of handgun purchase involving criminal activity, alcohol abuse, and mental illness exceeded 90 % in six cases and fell below 2/3 in one. Support again increased with sales of inexpensive handguns and denied sales and decreased with sales of tactical (assault-type) rifles. In this survey, which was conducted prior to mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Newtown, Connecticut; and elsewhere, licensed firearm sellers exhibited moderate support for a comprehensive background check requirement and very strong support for additional criteria for denial of handgun purchases. In both cases, support was associated with the intensity of respondents' exposure to illegal activities.

Policy Recommendations & Models; Purchasing Firearms

Characteristics of Federally Licensed Firearms Retailers and Retail Establishments in the United States: Initial Findings from the Firearms Licensee Survey

August 31, 2012

Firearms have widely supported legitimate purposes but are also frequently used in violent crimes. Owners and senior executives of federally licensed firearms dealers and pawnbrokers are a potentially valuable source of information on retail commerce in firearms, links between legal and illegal commerce, and policies designed to prevent the firearms they sell from being used in crimes. To our knowledge, there has been no prior effort to gather such information. In 2011, we conducted the Firearms Licensee Survey on a probability sample of 1,601 licensed dealers and pawnbrokers in the United States believed to sell 50 or more firearms per year. This article presents details of the design and execution of the survey and describes the characteristics of the respondents and their business establishments. The survey was conducted by mail, using methods developed by Dillman and others. Our response rate was 36.9 % (591 respondents), similar to that for other establishment surveys using similar methods. Respondents had a median age of 54; 89% were male, 97.6% were White, and, 98.1% were non-Hispanic. Those who held licenses under their own names had been licensed for a median of 18 years. A large majority of 96.3% agreed that "private ownership of guns is essential for a free society"; just over half (54.9%) believed that "it is too easy for criminals to get guns in this country." A match between the job and a personal interest in the shooting sports was the highest-ranking reason for working as a firearms retailer; the highest-ranking concerns were that "there are too many 'gun control' regulations" and that "the government might confiscate my guns." Most respondents (64.3%) were gun dealers, with significant variation by region. Residential dealers accounted for 25.6% of all dealers in the Midwest. Median annual sales volume was 200 firearms for both dealers and pawnbrokers. Dealers appeared more likely than pawnbrokers to specialize; they were more likely to rank in the highest or lowest quartile on sales of handguns, inexpensive handguns, and tactical rifles. Sales of inexpensive handguns and sales to women were more common among pawnbrokers. Internet sales were reported by 28.3% of respondents and sales at gun shows by 14.3%. A median of 1% of sales were denied after purchasers failed background checks; firearm trace requests equaled G1 % of annual sales. Trace frequency was directly associated with the percentage of firearm sales involving handguns, inexpensive handguns, and sales to women. Frequency of denied sales was strongly and directly associated with frequency of trace requests (pG0.0001). These results are based on selfreport but are consistent with those from studies using objective data.

Purchasing Firearms

Gun Shows Across a Multistate American Gun Market: Observational Evidence of the Effects of Regulatory Policies

June 1, 2007

Objective: To describe gun shows and assess the impact of increased regulation on characteristics linked to their importance as sources of guns used in crime.Design: Cross-sectional, observational.Subjects: Data were collected at a structured sample of 28 gun shows in California, which regulates these events and prohibits undocumented private party gun sales; and in Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Florida -- all leading sources of California's crime guns -- where these restrictions do not exist.Main outcome measures: Size of shows, measured by numbers of gun vendors and people in attendance; number and nature of guns for sale by gun vendors; measures of private party gun sales and illegal surrogate ("straw") gun purchases.Results: Shows in comparison states were larger, but the number of attendees per gun vendor was higher in California. None of these differences was statistically significant. Armed attendees were more common in other states (median 5.7%, interquartile range (IQR) 3.9 - 10.0%) than in California (median 1.1%, IQR 0.5 - 2.2%), p = 0.0007. Thirty percent of gun vendors both in California and elsewhere were identifiable as licensed firearm retailers. There were few differences in the types or numbers of guns offered for sale; vendors elsewhere were more likely to sell assault weapons (34.9% and 13.3%, respectively; p = 0.001). Straw purchases were more common in the comparison states (rate ratio 6.6 (95% CI 0.9 to 49.1), p = 0.06).Conclusions: California's regulatory policies were associated with a decreased incidence of anonymous, undocumented gun sales and illegal straw purchases at gun shows. No significant adverse effects of these policies were observed.

Purchasing Firearms

Risk Factors Among Handgun Retailers for Frequent and Disproportionate Sales of Guns Used in Violent and Firearm Related Crimes

December 1, 2005

Objective: To determine the retailer and community level factors associated with frequent and disproportionate sales of handguns that are later used in violent and firearm related crimes (VFC handguns). Design: Cross sectional. The authors used California records to identify all handguns sold by study subjects during 1996-2000 and federal gun tracing records to determine which of these guns had been recovered by a police agency in the US or elsewhere and traced by 30 September 2003. Subjects and setting: The 421 licensed gun retailers in California selling at least 100 handguns annually during 1996-2000. Main outcome measure: The number of VFC handguns per 1000 gun years of exposure. Differences are expressed as incidence rate ratios (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). Results: Subjects accounted for 11.7% of California retailers with handgun sales, 81.5% of handgun sales, and 85.5% of VFC handguns. Among subjects, the 3426 VFC handguns accounted for 48.0% of all traced handguns and 65.0% of those linked to a specified crime. The median VFC handgun trace rate was 0.5/1000 gun years (range 0-8.8). In multivariate analysis, this rate increased substantially for each single-point increase in the percentage of proposed sales that were denied because the purchasers were prohibited from owning guns (RR 1.43; 95% CI 1.32 to 1.56), and was increased for pawnbrokers (RR 1.26; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.55). Community level crime rates and sociodemographics had little predictive value. Conclusions: Risk factors, largely determined at the retailer level, exist for frequent and disproportionate sales of handguns that are later used in violent and firearm related crimes. Screening to identify high risk retailers could be undertaken with data that are already available.

Purchasing Firearms