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Historically, the United States' approach to crime has been reactionary and overreliant on criminal legal sanctions, and it has failed to adequately address the social, health, and behavioral factors that drive crime. Still, as the country continues to grapple with a rise in gun violence, a new wave of "tough-on-crime" rhetoric has emerged, blaming progressive policies for the increase in violent crime. While violent crime rose across the country in 2020, progressive leaders in cities are investing resources into proven public health and community-based solutions to stop gun violence before it starts, and these cities are seeing early signs of success in stemming the tide.Rather than accept calls for tough-on-crime policies, leaders in Houston, Boston, and Newark, New Jersey, have taken a more holistic approach to prevent violence before it starts. These cities are three examples of jurisdictions that have implemented comprehensive public safety plans focused not only on stopping violent crime but also on prioritizing community-driven and public health-focused innovations that break the cycle of violence.
Violent domestic extremism is on the rise and firearms are a pillar of this extremist ideology. A March 2021 assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found that domestic violent extremists motivated by white supremacy and anti-government ideology are the most lethal threats facing this country.Guns are the weapon of choice for domestic extremists, and easy access to guns plays a significant role in the frequency and lethality of these attacks. The January 6 insurrection on the Capitol Building by Trump supporters, militia groups, and right-wing extremists—some of whom were armed—was the result of anti-government propaganda and right-wing messaging suggesting that the election of President Joe Biden was fraudulent. This anti-government rhetoric and the dangerous attacks that result do not exist in a vacuum. For years, right-wing extremists have used this ideology as a basis for their dangerous attacks, such as the Bundy standoff in 2014 that led to hundreds of anti-government extremists taking up arms against federal agents. Then, just this year, an 18-year-old white supremacist used an AR-15 to shoot and kill 10 Black people and injured an additional 3 people in a Buffalo supermarket.In order to address the rise in domestic extremism, Congress and the administration must do more to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous and radicalized individuals.
The rising violent crime rate over the past two years is a pressing issue that requires immediate action. While many have blamed the criminal justice reform movement for the rise in violent crime, these increases can largely be attributed to an alarming escalation in gun violence. If elected officials are serious about stopping violent crime, they need to prioritize and support stronger gun laws at both the state and federal levels.This fact sheet provides data that show the link between states' actions to weaken their gun laws and rising violent crime rates.
The rise in violent white supremacist and anti-government extremism has permeated across the United States in recent years. All eyes were on Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, when—after years of rising tensions instigated by former President Donald Trump and his supporters—hundreds of militia groups and right-wing extremists attacked the Capitol. More than one year later, on May 14, 2022, a white 18-year-old espousing the racist "great replacement theory" fatally shot 10 Black people in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store. This white supremacist conspiracy theory posits that white people across the globe are going to be replaced by people of color.These devastating attacks did not occur in a vacuum. Gun violence prevention advocates had cautioned for months that the dangerous rhetoric could manifest in violent, deadly extremism; however, many did not heed the warning. In 2016, the Center for American Progress—in partnership with the Institute for a Progressive Nevada—released a detailed report on anti-government violent extremism in Nevada that echoed across the country. Nevada has an infamous history of violent extremist and anti-government actions by some residents. Now, the state is at a crossroads, experiencing rising extremist rhetoric alongside calls for weaker gun laws that, if combined, could be devastating and result in higher levels of extremist violence.This report is an update on the 2016 Center for American Progress report and examines how the combination of rising violent extremist ideologies and weak gun laws can lead to disastrous results for state residents. This report also presents the following policy solutions, which can be used to prevent future violent extremist attacks:Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.Ban guns at polling places.Implement waiting periods for purchasing guns.Enact preemption laws.Address hate crimes.Enact a licensing law.
Gun violence against police officers is a major problem in the United States, but elected officials are still adopting counterproductive measures opposed by law enforcement agencies.Policing is a perilous profession, and officers often encounter dangerous situations in the course of their duties. These risks are even higher in states with weak gun laws. Yet in many states, the same politicians that claim to support police agencies also push to weaken gun laws--despite law enforcement agencies' opposition--and further endanger officers' lives. If elected officials are serious about protecting police officers, they must stop passing dangerous gun laws and increasing police officers' risk of experiencing gun violence.This fact sheet both provides data that point to the prominent role of firearms in police officer fatalities and argues for stronger, commonsense gun laws.
Across America, communities are struggling to combat rising gun violence. Although overall crime rates remain low, the sale of firearms and instances of gun homicides have caused violent crime to increase dramatically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2019 to 2020, homicides increased a staggering 28 percent, and those homicides were largely driven by guns. This violence has especially harmed communities of color, who have been disproportionately affected by not only gun violence but also economic setbacks stemming from the pandemic.In response to the rising rates of gun violence, many advocates and stakeholders are calling for community-based violence intervention (CVI) programs. These programs have proven successful in reducing gun violence and violent crime more broadly in communities over the past two decades—in some communities by as much as 60 percent. Despite proven effectiveness, CVI programs often do not have sufficient resources, making broader implementation efforts challenging. As interest around CVIs continues to grow, this fact sheet explains how CVI programs can help address gun violence and provide the necessary resources to communities most in need.
From 2019 to 2020, gun homicides among children and teenagers rose dramatically. As a result, firearms are now the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 17. In addition, young Americans are suffering from a rapid and devastating rise in school shootings, increasingly mourning the loss of a parent due to firearm-related violence, and experiencing nonfatal gunshot injuries and gunshot threats at an alarming frequency.Despite these concerning trends, some elected officials refuse to protect our youth from gun-related crimes. Instead, they are blocking commonsense gun safety laws and even pushing for counterproductive measures that would further endanger children and teenagers. This must change.
States, cities, and rural communities across the United States are grappling with rising gun violence. While overall crime rates dropped from 2019 to 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has produced a spike in firearm sales and gun homicides, growing mistrust between police and the communities they serve, and great economic and social instability. Black and Hispanic communities disproportionately bear the brunt of this instability: They are not only experiencing increased gun violence to a greater degree but also have been hardest hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic and have had resources divested from them for generations.In order to respond to gun violence and address its root causes, communities most affected are banding together to advocate for greater investments in resources outside the criminal legal system that increase safety. Community stakeholders are also working together with their local governments in new and innovative ways to respond to instances of violence and protect their neighborhoods. These include supporting community reinvestment initiatives and building new violence prevention and intervention programs. One tool that is gaining popularity and has proved to be effective is community-based violence interventions (CVI). CVI programs serve as a vital way to connect community resources to the people who need them most, addressing the root causes of gun violence in a holistic way that cannot be done by law enforcement or local government alone.This report addresses some of the most frequent questions around CVI programs. It provides guidance not only to community leaders but also to policymakers seeking to engage with and support these programs.
The rising violent crime rates over the past two years is a major issue that elected officials must address immediately. While many have blamed the criminal justice reform movement for the rise in violent crime, the fact is that these increases in violent crime can largely be attributed to an alarming escalation in gun violence. If elected officials are serious about stopping violent crime, they need to prioritize and support stronger gun laws.This fact sheet provides telling data on the link between gun violence and rising crime rates.
Gun violence presents a significant challenge in Texas, approximately half of whose residents own a firearm and where a person is killed with a gun every two hours. High levels of gun ownership coupled with Texas' high rate of gun violence create a danger to public health.According to Rand Corp., an average of 46 percent of Texas residents owned a firearm from 1980 to 2016. However, this percentage likely increased after 2020, when the country saw a surge in gun sales associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, estimates suggest that 32 percent of U.S. adults owned a firearm by the end of 2020. Texas is also home to numerous federal firearm licensed (FFL) dealers. Information from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) indicates that as of January 2022, the state had almost 10 percent--5,089--of all FFL dealers in the country. Studies also report that thousands of gun shows6 are organized in Texas every year.
Michigan has taken important steps in passing laws that prevent guns from falling into the hands of individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others. According to the latest scorecard from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Michigan received a "C" grade for the strength of its gun laws in 2020. The state requires individuals to have a permit before they can purchase a handgun from a private seller, a form of law that a growing body of research suggests is effective at reducing gun homicides. The state also requires private gun owners to report missing or stolen firearms. These actions have worked: Compared with other states, Michigan ranked 31st in terms of gun deaths per every 100,000 people from 2015 to 2019. More recently, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced a $75 million plan that includes targeting gun trafficking; supporting programs to increase access to social as well as mental health services; and expanding jobs, education, and employment opportunities in communities affected by violence. After the terrible shooting at Oxford High School in November 2020, Gov. Whitmer correctly called gun violence a public health crisis and pledged to do even more to address it.Despite important progress, however, many gun reform bills in Michigan have been met with opposition, particularly from Republicans in the state legislature. As a result, gun violence remains a key issue that affects communities across the Great Lakes State. Every day, more than three people are killed with a gun and more than nine people are nonfatally injured. In this regard, all state leaders should support additional steps to prevent gun violence. This report presents six aspects of gun violence in Michigan that are particularly alarming or above the national average and that support the need for actions and policies to further reduce and prevent gun violence.
Religious communities play a significant role in efforts to reduce gun violence, including by advocating for commonsense gun reform using a variety of tools. Their work is driven by both a sense of ethical obligation and concern for the safety of their communities.Gun violence in the United States is an epidemic that affects all communities. While people may most often hear about gun violence through news reports on mass shootings, gun violence manifests itself in many ways. Other forms of gun violence include suicide, violent crime, abuse, and accidental death—all of which concern faith communities and religious leaders in the United States. After incidents of gun violence, faith communities are often sites for funeral rituals, collective grieving, and long-term support networks for survivors. Moreover, faith communities are often targets of white supremacist attacks and other forms of violence. They play a significant role in efforts to reduce gun violence as well, both within their communities and the nation, by advocating for commonsense gun reform using a variety of effective tools.Most religious Americans believe that gun reform is needed to save lives. In turn, religious organizations, acting out of a sense of sacred obligation and moral conviction, are working to end gun violence through violence interruption programs, education, counseling, advocacy, and more. They are also working to push back against the harmful ideology of Christian nationalism, which research shows is connected to opposition to gun reform.