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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.

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.

Fresno, California, The Cost of Gun Violence: The Direct Cost to Tax Payers

April 22, 2022

The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) received funding from The California Wellness Foundation, which has invested in violence prevention efforts in Fresno, to conduct a detailed analysis and publish this Cost of Gun Violence study documenting the detailed government expenses that accompany every injury shooting in the City. NICJR tracked the direct costs of each shooting and has deliberately used the low end of the range for each expense. Additionally, not included in this study are the loss of production costs when the victim(s) or suspect(s) were working at the time of the incident. Nationally, those costs have been estimated at an additional $2 million for each shooting incident. Therefore, the calculated per homicide cost of $3.0 million in Fresno is a safe estimate, the real cost is likely even higher.

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.

West Athens-Westmont, California, The Cost of Gun Violence: The Direct Cost to Tax Payers

May 1, 2021

The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR), in partnership with the Los Angeles County Office of Violence Prevention (OVP), was commissioned by the California Wellness Foundation to conduct a detailed analysis of the Cost of Gun Violence in West Athens-Westmont. NICJR and the OVP tracked the direct costs of each shooting and have deliberately used low-end estimates for each expense. Additionally, not included in this assessment are productivity losses relating to victim(s) or suspect(s) who were working at the time of the shooting. Nationally, those costs have been estimated at an additional $1-2 million for each shooting incident. Therefore, the calculated per homicide shooting cost of $3.1 million in West Athens-Westmont is a conservative estimate; the real cost is likely even higher. 

Fresno, California, El Costo de la Violencia Armada: El Costo Directo Para Los Contribuyentes

June 1, 2020

El Instituto Nacional de Reforma de la Justicia Penal (NICJR) recibió financiación de la Fundación para el Bienestar de California (California Wellness Foundation), quienes han invertido en la prevención de la violencia en Fresno, para llevar a cabo un análisis detallado y publicar el costo de violencia armada. El estudio sobre la violencia que documenta en detalle los gastos que hace el gobierno en cada lesión por tiroteo generado en la ciudad. NICJR rastreó el costo directo de cada disparo y ha empleado deliberadamente el extremo más bajo de la gama para cada gasto.

The Relationship Between Community Violence and Trauma: How Violence Affects Learning, Health, and Behavior

July 12, 2017

Research on trauma is frequently featured in mainstream news outlets, pointing to its connection to a range of behavioral and health outcomes. While trauma can have multiple interpretations, for the purposes of this report, it is the result of experiencing or witnessing chronic and sustained violence, or specific events that can have lasting effects on individuals. Researchers have identified 13 distinct types of trauma, including community violence. Community violence is an umbrella term that encompasses experiencing or witnessing firearms violence as well as exposure to drug markets. In addition to the commonly understood, more immediate impacts of gun violence on the victims and their friends and family, this report will provide an overview of the consequences of community violence on health and well-being, specifically illuminating the impact of trauma caused by the longer-term, frequently cumulative effects of living with the fear of violence. This report is intended for members of the gun violence prevention community and policymakers and is designed to provide a foundation of key concepts and research on trauma in the context of gun violence in an easily accessible format.

Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence: A Road Map for Safer Communities

April 28, 2016

Groundbreaking research by Benenson Strategy Group (BSG) and Lester and Associates was released on April 28, 2016 alongside a policy roadmap that lays out a series of proposed policy solutions for gun violence based on conversations with community stakeholders in Richmond, VA, Milwaukee, WI, and Stockton, CA. The research and report grew out of a project launched last year by The Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies, The Urban Institute and The Joyce Foundation. The study found that African Americans and Latinos believe that fixing the gun violence crisis in the United States is a pathway to addressing issues with the criminal justice system, including police-community relationships and mass incarceration.

Policy Recommendations & Models

Engaging Communities in Reducing Gun Violence: A Road Map to Safer Communities

April 1, 2016

Gun violence inflicts a devastating toll on communities of color, but the justice system response to this violence frequently destabilizes neighborhoods and damages police-community relations. To develop a better response, the Urban Institute, Joyce Foundation, and Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies convened more than 100 people from communities affected by violence. We learned that violence prevention demands a holistic set of solutions. Limiting access to firearms is part of the solution, but a comprehensive strategy will also require improving police-community relations, investing in community services, and facilitating community leadership in violence prevention efforts.

Hispanic Victims of Lethal Firearms Violence in the United States (2015)

July 17, 2015

During the period 2000 to 2013, the overall U.S. Hispanic population grew 53.3 percent. This study is intended to report the latest national information available at the time of writing on Hispanic homicide victimization and suicide in the United States, the role of firearms in homicide and suicide, and overall gun death figures. Recognizing this demographic landscape, the importance of documenting such victimization is clear.

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