Gun Facts

Below are some staggering gun facts for you to gain more knowledge on the subject of handguns:

In one year on average, more than 100,000 people in America are shot or killed with a gun. Over a million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated (Childrens’s Defense Fund, p. 20).

    • U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates. The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher (Richardson, p.1).
    • Among 23 populous, high-income countries, 80% of all firearm deaths occurred in the United States (Richardson, p. 1).
    • Gun violence impacts society in countless ways: medical costs, costs of the criminal justice system, security precautions such as metal detectors, and reductions in quality of life because of fear of gun violence. These impacts are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually (Cook, 2000).

Where there are more guns, there are more gun deaths.

  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides and 94% of gun-related suicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present (Wiebe, p. 780).
  • Higher household gun ownership correlates with higher rates of homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings (Harvard Injury Control Center).
  • Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of suicide by a factor of 3 to 5 and increases the risk of suicide with a firearm by a factor of 17 (Kellermann, 1992, p. 467; Wiebe, p. 771).
  • Keeping a firearm in the home increases the risk of homicide by a factor of 3 (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).

On the whole, guns are more likely to raise the risk of injury than to confer protection.

    • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide (11x), criminal assault or homicide (7x), or unintentional shooting death or injury (4x) than to be used in a self-defense shooting. (Kellermann, 1998, p. 263).
    • Guns are used to intimidate and threaten 4 to 6 times more often than they are used to thwart crime (Hemenway, p. 269).
    • Every year there are only about 200 legally justified self-defense homicides by private citizens (FBI, Expanded Homicide Data, Table 15) compared with over 30,000 gun deaths (NCIPC).
    • A 2009 study found that people in possession of a gun are 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault (Branas).

Assaults and suicide attempts with firearms are much more likely to be fatal than those perpetrated with less lethal weapons or means. Removing guns saves lives.

  • There are five times as many deaths from gun assaults as from knife assaults, where the rates of assault with knives and with guns are similar (Zimring, p. 199).
  • More than 90 percent of suicide attempts with a gun are fatal (Miller, 2004, p. 626). In comparison, only 3 percent of attempts with drugs or cutting are fatal (Miller, 2004, p. 626).
  • Guns can be sold in the United States without a background check to screen out criminals or the mentally ill.
  • It is estimated that forty percent of gun acquisitions occur in the secondary market. That means that they happen without a Brady background check at a federally licensed dealer (Cook, p. 26).
  • Sales from federal firearm licensees (FFLs) require a background check. Sales between individuals, under federal law, do not require a background check. This means that felons can lie and buy at gun shows and other places where guns are readily available.

** Information above comes from Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

[1] Children’s Defense Fund, Protect Children Not Guns 2009, September 2009

[2] Richardson, Erin G., and David Hemenway, Homicide, Suicide, and Unintentional Firearm Fatality: Comparing the United States With Other High-Income Countries, 2003Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, published online ahead of print, June 2010

[3] Richardson, Erin G., and David Hemenway, Homicide, Suicide, and Unintentional Firearm Fatality: Comparing the United States With Other High-Income Countries, 2003Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, published online ahead of print, June 2010

[4] Cook, Philip J, and Jens Ludwig, Gun Violence: The Real Costs, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000

[5] Wiebe, Douglas J. PhD. Homicide and Suicide Risks Associated With Firearms in the Home: A National Case-Control Study Annals of Emergency Medicine 41 (2003): 771-82.

[6] Harvard School of Public Health: Harvard Injury Control Research Center. Homicide ” Suicide ” Accidents ” Children and Women, Boston: Harvard School of Public Health, 2009, http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/index.html

[7] Kellermann, Arthur L. MD, MPH, et al., Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home, New England Journal of Medicine, 329(15) (1993): 1084-1091

[8] Kellermann, Arthur L. MD, MPH, et al., Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home, New England Journal of Medicine, 329(15) (1993): 1084-1091

[9] Kellermann, Arthur L. et al., Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home Journal of Trauma, Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, 45(2) (1998): 263-267

[10] Hemenway, David and Deborah Azrael., The Relative Frequency of Offensive and Defensive Gun Uses: Results From a National SurveyViolence and Victims, 15(3) (2000): 257-272

[11] National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (2008 (deaths) and 2009 (injuries). Calculations by Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

[12] Branas et al, Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun AssaultAmerican Journal of Public Health, 99(11)(2009), published online ahead of print, Sep 17, 2009

[13] Branas et al, Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun AssaultAmerican Journal of Public Health, 99(11)(2009), published online ahead of print, Sep 17, 2009

[14] Miller, Matthew, David Hemenway, Deborah Azrael, “Firearms and Suicide in the Northeast,Journal of Trauma 57 (2004):626-632. (See also: E. D. Shenassa, S. N. Catlin, S. L Buka, “Lethality of Firearms Relative to Other Suicide Methods: A Population Based Study,” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 57 (2003): 120-124.

[15] Cook, PJ and J Ludwig, Guns in America: Results of a Comprehensive National Survey on Firearms Ownership and Use, (Washington, DC: Police Foundation, 1996).

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The Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence (ICHV) is the oldest and largest statewide organization in the U.S. working to prevent the devastation caused by firearms. Founded in 1975 by four suburban Chicago women concerned about the tragic consequences of handgun proliferation and availability, ICHV works on a variety of fronts to educate, raise public awareness, and build coalitions to enact change in laws and behavior. For 40 years, ICHV has been a leader among state gun violence prevention groups.

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