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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.

Extreme risk protection orders, race/ethnicity, and equity: Evidence from California

August 6, 2022

Extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) provide a civil mechanism to temporarily remove firearm access from individuals at high risk of harming themselves or others. Evidence and theory suggest that ERPOs can prevent firearm-related harm, but the policy's impact on racial/ethnic equity is largely unknown. To examine potential inequities by race/ethnicity in public perceptions and use of California's ERPO law, we drew on two complementary data sources: 1) a 2020 state-representative survey of California adults, and 2) ERPO court documents for the first 3 years of policy implementation (2016–2018). Majorities (54–89%) of all racial/ethnic groups reported that ERPOs are at least sometimes appropriate, and 64–94% were willing to ask a judge for an ERPO for a family member. However, Black and Hispanic/Latinx survey participants less often perceived ERPOs as appropriate and were less willing to serve as petitioners, with Black participants citing lack of knowledge about ERPOs and not trusting the system to be fair as their top reasons for unwillingness. Similarly, review of ERPO court documents revealed that no family or household members served as petitioners for Black and Hispanic/Latinx ERPO respondents. Additionally, Black respondents were the least likely to have documented access to a firearm and legal representation in court. Racial/ethnic equity in ERPO use may be improved by reducing barriers to petitioning, incorporating non-law enforcement intervention professionals like behavioral health specialists into the ERPO process, providing legal assistance to respondents and petitioners, and investing in the social safety net.

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.

Gun rights groups set new lobbying spending record in 2021

May 16, 2022

On Saturday, an 18-year-old gunman entered the Tops Friendly Supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. He killed 10 people, injured three others and left a community reeling. Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas), who has received more funding from gun rights groups than any other politician since he was elected to Congress in 2012, condemned the racially-motivated mass shooting as "profoundly anti-American."But mass shootings are an increasingly common facet of American life. There have been 198 mass shootings in 132 days in 2022. The Buffalo massacre is the deadliest this year so far.Powerful gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Gun Owners of America have poured millions into lobbying, campaign contributions and outside spending to advocate for the right to bear arms. At least 81.4 million Americans owned guns in 2021. Gun rights groups spent a record $15.8 million on lobbying in 2021 and $2 million in the first quarter of 2022. These organizations have invested $190 million in lobbying efforts since 1998. Gun rights advocates spent more than $114 million of that total since 2013.Lobbying by gun rights advocates nearly tripled in 2013 after a gunman murdered 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, 2012. The following year was the closest the Senate has come in the last decade to passing meaningful gun control legislation.

Child Access Prevention Laws and Firearm Storage: Results From a National Survey

February 1, 2022

IntroductionChild Access Prevention Negligent Storage (CAP-NS) laws seek to reduce pediatric firearm injury by imposing sanctions on gun owners if children gain access to unlocked guns. Whether these laws affect the storage behavior they aim to encourage is not known because historical panel data on firearm storage do not exist. As a result, assessing how much, if at all, firearm storage changed because of CAP-NS laws requires an indirect approach.MethodsData for this study came from a web-based survey conducted by the research firm Ipsos from July 30, 2019 to August 11, 2019. Respondents were adult gun owners drawn from an online sampling frame comprising approximately 55,000 U.S. adults recruited using address-based sampling methods to be representative of the U.S. population. The primary outcome was the proportion of gun owners in CAP-NS versus non-CAP-NS states who had ≥1 unlocked firearm. Estimates are presented by CAP-NS status, for gun owners overall and for those who live with children, before and after adjusting for potential confounders. Data were analyzed in 2021.ResultsIn adjusted analyses, gun owners in CAP-NS states were no more likely to lock firearms than were those in states without these laws. In addition, most gun owners reported not knowing whether they lived in a state with a CAP-NS law.ConclusionsCAP-NS laws have at best modest effects on firearm storage. If the storage effect is as small as this study indicates, the mortality benefits previously attributed to CAP-NS laws are overstated. As such, developing interventions that effectively reduce firearm mortality by reducing access to firearms remains an urgent clinical and public policy priority.

Gun Violence and Mass Shootings

November 1, 2021

Table Talk: Family Conversations About Current Events for Parents, Families, and Caregivers.The issue of gun violence and mass shootings is in the news frequently. Young people are usually aware of what is happening and will want to talk about it. However, it is a sensitive, scary, and potentially painful topic. Before raising the matter with children, consider your child's personality. Will the conversation ease your child's fears or add to it?

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.

Understanding Gun Violence: Factors Associated With Beliefs Regarding Guns, Gun Policies, and Gun Violence

July 1, 2021

Gun violence is a pressing public health concern, particularly in the United States. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a record-breaking year with 43,551 deaths attributed to gun violence in the U.S., with almost 20,000 classified as murder/unintentional death and more than 24,000 classified as suicide (Gun Violence Archive, 2021). Black men are 10 times more likely to die from gun violence than are white men (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020c). Yet, in proportion to these sobering statistics, researchers' knowledge of the range of causes and possible remedies remains negligible. The purpose of this Special Issue of the Psychology of Violence devoted to Gun Violence was to highlight and spur additional, psychologically oriented research regarding firearm violence. Method: This Special Issue consists of seven original U.S.-based studies that address various aspects of gun violence, including individual, geographical, psychological, and sociological factors associated with attitudes toward guns, gun policies, and gun violence. Results: Individually and collectively, these studies provide novel insights regarding different types of gun perceptions and beliefs. These works consider a wide range of factors including media exposure, beliefs about the link between mental illness and gun violence, cumulative trauma, masculinity norms, regional norms, and trust in law enforcement. Discussion: This Special Issue is intended to spark greater interest in working to mitigate firearm violence and encourage researchers across scientific disciplines to collaboratively apply their theoretical perspectives and methodologies to reduce the devastating, but understudied, U.S. gun violence epidemic.

The role of domestic violence in fatal mass shootings in the United States, 2014–2019

May 31, 2021

BackgroundFatal mass shootings, defined as four or more people killed by gunfire, excluding the perpetrator, account for a small percentage of firearm homicide fatalities. Research has not extensively focused on the role of domestic violence (DV) in mass shootings in the United States. This study explores the role of DV in mass shootings in the United States.MethodsUsing 2014–2019 mass shooting data from the Gun Violence Archive, we indexed our data by year and mass shooting and collected the number of deaths and injuries. We reviewed news articles for each mass shooting to determine if it was 1) DV-related (i.e., at least one victim of a mass shooting was a dating partner or family member of the perpetrator); 2) history of DV (i.e., the perpetrator had a history of DV but the mass shooting was not directed toward partners or family members); or 3) non-DV-related (i.e., the victims were not partners or family members, nor was there mention of the perpetrator having a history of DV). We conducted descriptive analyses to summarize the percent of mass shootings that were DV-related, history of DV, or non-DV-related, and analyzed how many perpetrators died during the incidents. We conducted one-way ANOVA to examine whether there were differences in the average number of injuries or fatalities or the case fatality rates (CFR) between the three categories. One outlier and 17 cases with unknown perpetrators were excluded from our main analysis.ResultsWe found that 59.1% of mass shootings between 2014 and 2019 were DV-related and in 68.2% of mass shootings, the perpetrator either killed at least one partner or family member or had a history of DV. We found significant differences in the average number of injuries and fatalities between DV and history of DV shootings and a higher average case fatality rate associated with DV-related mass shootings (83.7%) than non-DV-related (63.1%) or history of DV mass shootings (53.8%). Fifty-five perpetrators died during the shootings; 39 (70.9%) died by firearm suicide, 15 (27.3%) were killed by police, and 1 (1.8%) died from an intentional overdose.ConclusionsMost mass shootings are related to DV. DV-related shootings had higher CFR than those unrelated to DV. Given these findings, restricting access to guns by perpetrators of DV may affect the occurrence of mass shootings and associated casualties.

Considerations for Developing an Agenda for Gun Violence Prevention Research

April 1, 2021

In December 2019, for the first time in more than 20 years, the US Congress appropriated, and the president signed, a bill that included $25 million for gun violence prevention research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. This research should find ways to reduce injury, death, and suffering while protecting the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms. Four questions can structure this research agenda. First, what is the problem: How many people get shot, who are they, where does it happen, what is the relationship between the shooter and the victim, what other types of damage are incurred, and are the shootings increasing or decreasing? Second, what are the causes: What is the role of alcohol and drugs; what is the role of gangs, poverty, and systemic racism; what is the role of mental illness, robbery, and domestic violence; what is the role of private gun ownership (both positive and negative) and easy access to guns? What are the factors that protect us, such as stable families and safe environments? Third, what works: Which practices, interventions, policies, and laws work best to prevent these deaths and injuries? And fourth, how do you do it: How do you implement the findings and translate them into policies, legislation, and practices that can be scaled up?