Report on Gun Suicide—Confronting the Inevitability Myth

Our report Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Gun Policies Save Lives from Suicide represents the culmination of a yearlong project to research and analyze the suicide crisis. This report provides an in-depth examination of the deadly role guns play in suicide in America and outlines the policies and intervention programs that have been proven to help prevent these tragedies.

Though we are living in a time of rising suicide rates, many Americans, including our lawmakers, buy into the pervasive myth that suicides are inevitable. Confronting the Inevitability Myth thoroughly debunks this misconception by arming readers with data and research from across the field showing how gun access drives suicide risk in this country and, consequently, how effective gun policy and intervention programs can save more lives. A data supplement within the report takes an even deeper dive to show just how significantly guns contribute to state suicide rates: compared to all other variables, including race, gender, rurality, substance abuse, and severe mental illness, gun access correlates the most with suicide death.

As Confronting the Inevitability Myth shows, suicide’s impact is enormous. Since 2000, more than half a million Americans have died by suicide, and the majority used a gun. But these deaths aren’t spread equally across the nation—states with immediate, unrestricted access to guns suffer a hugely disproportionate number of our nation’s suicides. Because gunshots are so uniquely lethal, they account for 5% of suicide attempts, but are responsible for 50% of suicide deaths. A variety of risk factors—including mental health conditions and trauma, addiction and isolation, bullying and abuse—drive some people to attempt suicide. But easy access to guns is often the determining factor in whether a person at risk survives.

The good news is that there are many steps we can take today to address this public health crisis because the simple, hopeful truth is that these deaths are preventable. By addressing the primary factors that drive suicide risk, including access to guns, we can make a lifesaving difference for many Americans. Confronting the Inevitability Myth outlines six essential policy solutions that work to prevent suicide by reducing people’s access to guns during a suicidal crisis:

  • Universal background checks help to keep severely suicidal people from acquiring guns after they have been involuntarily committed for their own safety.
  • Extreme Risk Protection Order laws empower family members to proactively protect their loved ones by petitioning a court to temporarily remove guns during a severe mental health crisis.
  • Voluntary gun relinquishment laws could help empower suicidal people to act to promote their own health and safety by limiting their access to guns during mental crises.
  • Firearm waiting periods provide a brief but crucial cooling off period to guard against impulsive, suicidal gun purchases.
  • Smart guns, safety training, and safe storage laws help keep children and teens from gaining unsupervised access to guns can meaningfully reduce youth suicide.
  • Healthcare-based suicide prevention programs have shown that medical professionals make a remarkable difference in reducing their patients’ risk of suicide if they have the training, freedom, and support to effectively counsel their patients about gun safety.

These best practices chart a clear path to progress on this issue, and there’s no better time to act on them than now. The changes we recommend in this report are modest and—to be clear—they are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment. But by understanding and addressing the factors that drive suicide risk, we can save more lives.

READ THE FULL REPORT: Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Gun Policies Save Lives from Suicide

 

MEMO: Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Dangerous Record on Gun Policy

Brett Kavanaugh remarks

On Monday, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the DC Circuit to fill Justice Kennedy’s seat on the United States Supreme Court. The nominee has a troubling record on guns: Judge Kavanaugh has issued prior rulings that are ideologically aligned with the gun lobby and reflect a radical interpretation of the Constitution under which public safety justifications play no role in Second Amendment jurisprudence. Should Judge Kavanaugh be confirmed to the Court for life, the results could devastate elected officials’ ability to adopt the public safety measures Americans have repeatedly demanded after massacres like Parkland.

Background on Heller and the Second Amendment

Ten years ago last month, in a landmark 5–4 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, the US Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right of law-abiding citizens to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense. The Court struck down an extreme handgun ban in place in Washington DC, but cautioned that, like all rights, the Second Amendment is “not unlimited”: it is not a “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The Court provided a non-exhaustive list of gun regulations it said were presumptively lawful, confirming that public safety laws and self-defense rights can be harmonized under the Second Amendment.

Heller ushered in a flood of litigation, including gun lobby-backed cases that sought to expand Heller to invalidate even moderate gun regulations. These cases saw little success: reflecting the Supreme Court’s recognition that many firearm laws pose no constitutional problem, lower courts have rejected post-Heller challenges about 93% of the time. To date, consistent with Heller’s middle-ground approach, gun policy hasn’t been an unusually partisan issue among lower courts. Judges appointed by both Democrats and Republicans voted to uphold key gun safety measures after Heller, including minimum age laws, state and local assault weapon bans, concealed carry permitting laws, and risk-based gun removal laws. Over the last ten years, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court declined nearly every chance to review Second Amendment cases or expand on the Heller ruling. During this time, political opposition driven by the NRA, not Heller or judges, was by far the biggest obstacle to addressing the gun violence epidemic.

Most lower-court judges to consider Second Amendment cases have taken seriously Heller’s instruction that the Second Amendment is “not unlimited” by overwhelmingly voting to uphold laws that protect the public from gun violence without infringing constitutional rights. But a few judges, mostly those writing in dissenting opinions, have departed from this consensus view by broadly rejecting public safety justifications for firearm regulations and arguing that many more important measures are unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, some of these dissenting judges are on President Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist, and one of them, Justice Neil Gorsuch, has already been confirmed to the Court. The confirmation of a second justice with views on gun policy that are radically far from mainstream could result in the dangerous expansion of Heller gun lobby groups have not been able to achieve thus far.

Judge Kavanaugh’s Record on Guns

In a follow-on case to Heller known as Heller II, Judge Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that Washington DC’s assault weapons ban and registration laws violate the Second Amendment. While two other judges cast deciding votes upholding both laws, Judge Kavanaugh instead sided with the gun lobby’s position that every type of firearm that is marketed and sold to enough Americans enjoys absolute constitutional protections, concluding that because assault weapons are in “common use” today and were not historically regulated, they cannot be prohibited under the Second Amendment. Similarly, Judge Kavanaugh determined that because most states do not require registration of firearms, it is unconstitutional to have a mandatory registration law—meaning that under his circular logic, any gun regulation that is not already widespread is constitutionally suspect.

In the same dissent in Heller II, Judge Kavanaugh interpreted the US Supreme Court’s decision in Heller to require judges to disregard compelling public safety justifications for gun regulations and consider only the text of the Second Amendment and the history and tradition of regulating in a certain area when deciding if a challenged law is constitutional. Under Judge Kavanaugh’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, there is an “absence of a role for judicial interest balancing or assessment of costs and benefits of gun regulations.” This radical view would allow judges to pick and choose which gun regulations have adequate historical support and invalidate all other laws. For example, Judge Kavanaugh might vote to strike down important gun safety laws that address modern dangers that did not exist at the time of the founding of the United States, like extreme-risk protection order laws that remove guns from the possession of likely mass shooters, and domestic violence restraining order laws that protect victims of domestic abuse (a crime that wasn’t even recognized in early American history).

Finally, while Judge Kavanaugh has not issued a major ruling on the issue of public carry of firearms outside the home, he did cast a dissenting procedural vote in Grace v. District of Columbia stating he would leave in place a lower-court ruling striking down DC’s concealed carry licensing law pending appellate review. This suggests that Judge Kavanaugh was sympathetic to the view that the District of Columbia’s “good reason” requirement for concealed carry permit applicants is unconstitutional, a position that places him well outside the mainstream. Judges have overwhelmingly upheld similar concealed carry requirements, including those in place in California, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey—and in each case, the US Supreme Court denied review, leaving favorable lower-court decisions upholding strong concealed carry permitting laws in place.

The above rulings should concern anyone who believes our leaders must remain empowered to take action to stem America’s gun violence crisis. But President Trump’s selection of a judge with outlier views is no coincidence: it reflects the clout of the NRA and its influence over the Administration’s policies and judicial nomination strategies. In early 2017, the NRA spent $1 million to support the nomination of Neil Gorsuch—and once Justice Gorsuch joined the Court, he joined a dissenting opinion arguing that California’s strong concealed carry laws violate the Second Amendment. President Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh seems a clear demonstration that the President is still letting the gun lobby dictate his policies, contradicting his own call for meaningful action after the massacre in Parkland.

Impact on Critical Firearm Policy Issues

While applying Heller’s holding that individuals have a constitutional right to use a handgun for self-defense in the home, lower courts have generally exercised caution when confronting issues not yet addressed by the Supreme Court. This means some substantive Second Amendment questions lack definitive answers. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Judge Kavanaugh could play a key role in shaping the Court’s rulings on these and other areas of gun policy.

Concealed Carry

Heller recognized that “the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider” the issue of concealed carry of firearms upheld restrictions that were far more stringent than the moderate concealed carry regulations states have adopted today. While numerous federal courts, including the Second, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, have interpreted Heller to allow for appropriately strong concealed carry regulations in public, one outlier court struck down a good-cause concealed carry permitting law in the District of Columbia. Seeking to capitalize on that decision, the NRA recently backed a series of lawsuits challenging strong concealed carry permitting systems in New Jersey, Maryland, and New York, and filed a brief arguing that Massachusetts’ concealed carry standards are unconstitutional. One or more of these cases may be taken up by the US Supreme Court after Justice Kennedy’s replacement is confirmed.

Assault Weapon and Large-Capacity Magazine Restrictions

Heller stated that the Second Amendment is not a “right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose” and recognized that dangerous and unusual weapons, like those “most useful in military service,” may be prohibited. Many courts, including the Second, Fourth, Seventh, and DC Circuits, and district courts in Colorado and California, have applied this reasoning to uphold assault weapon or large-capacity magazine (LCM) restrictions. However, one outlier trial court recently sided with the NRA in a challenge to California’s LCM possession ban, holding that the ban was likely unconstitutional and suggesting that magazine limits of any size pose a constitutional problem (that decision is being appealed). The California case—as well as gun lobby-backed suits challenging LCM laws in Vermont and New Jersey—may, in the near future, be appealed and eventually presented for Supreme Court review.

Post-Parkland Gun Safety Legislation

States have adopted 52 new gun safety laws since the school shooting in Parkland, FL. Gun lobby groups have responded to this renewed political and legislative energy by filing new court challenges to block gun safety laws. Lawsuits challenging Florida’s new minimum age law, Maryland and Florida’s trigger activator bans, and local gun safety ordinances may tee up new Second Amendment issues for intermediate appellate courts, and possibly the US Supreme Court, in the years to come.

The Supreme Court has declined to weigh in on any of the above issues in the ten years since Heller, leaving it unclear how some members of the current Court would resolve these cases. Some justices, including Justices Thomas and Scalia and, recently, Justice Gorsuch, have revealed their views by dissenting from the decision to deny review in Second Amendment cases, expressing that they would prefer to grant review and strike down gun regulations in key policy areas. Because it only takes 4 votes for the Supreme Court to grant review, the four more reliably conservative justices could have granted review in Second Amendment challenges without Justice Kennedy. It is possible the Court declined to do so because Justice Kennedy was a moderating force on Second Amendment issues who was unlikely to strike down the reasonable gun regulations Justices Gorsuch and Thomas disfavor. If true, Judge Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation to the Supreme Court presents a disturbing possibility that a new coalition of justices will vote to hear more firearm cases and strike down more lifesaving laws under a radically broad conception of the Second Amendment.

Statements on Kavanaugh’s Nomination

In response to President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, Giffords and Giffords Law Center released the following statements:

Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords

“In nominating Judge Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice, the Trump Administration is once again showing brazen disregard for the people it claims to protect. Judge Kavanaugh’s dangerous views on the Second Amendment are far outside the mainstream of even conservative thought and stand in direct opposition to the values and priorities of the vast majority of Americans. America needs a Supreme Court justice who respects the Second Amendment but who also realizes reasonable regulations that reduce gun violence do not infringe on anyone’s constitutional rights. But that’s not the kind of justice President Trump nominated today.

“America’s gun violence epidemic weighs daily on the minds of so many families in our country. Parents live in fear of hearing their children describe to them what it’s like to go through an active shooter drill. Too many people in communities across the country live in fear of being shot in their neighborhoods. In states across the country, students and voters have been speaking up, taking to statehouses, and demanding that lawmakers pass effective gun safety legislation. Their advocacy is delivering results: just since the massacre in Parkland, more than 50 gun safety bills have passed in 26 states. Should the Senate confirm the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, we have every indication to believe that he will prioritize an agenda backed by the gun lobby, putting corporate interests before public safety. Make no mistake, the progress we’ve achieved passing firearm laws that save lives every day will be in serious danger.”

Hannah Shearer, Staff Attorney and Second Amendment Litigation Director

“Judge Kavanaugh has expressed a dangerous hostility toward reasonable gun regulations and made clear he believes the government’s power to address gun violence is extremely limited. Judge Kavanaugh rejects the idea that courts should consider public safety when judging gun cases and would strike down bedrock gun laws like those that restrict civilian use of the dangerous, military-style weapons regularly used in mass shootings.

“Even Justice Scalia, one of the most conservative Supreme Court justices in modern history, endorsed reasonable firearm regulations like the ones Judge Kavanaugh would strike down. Judge Kavanaugh’s positions on the Second Amendment are outliers far outside the mainstream, and confirming him to the Supreme Court could negatively impact efforts to fight gun violence for many years to come. The notion of Judge Kavanaugh serving on our nation’s highest judicial bench should worry Americans who care about the safety of their families and communities. Now is the time for them to speak up and demand a nominee who will respect centuries of American legal tradition, recognize that gun rights have always gone hand-in-hand with responsible regulations, and put the life and liberty of all Americans ahead of the interests of the gun lobby.”

 

Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton Honored at 25th Anniversary Dinner

Last week, over 800 of our supporters gathered in San Francisco for Giffords Law Center’s 25th Anniversary Dinner. It was simply an incredible evening—one that renewed our spirit and resolve and reminded us why we fight each day for a safer America, no matter what we’re up against. We looked back at our organization’s history, paid tribute to the lives lost in the 101 California shooting, and looked forward to the promise of the next generation.

Watch highlights from the Anniversary Dinner:

 
We gave Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton our Courageous Leadership Award for her unwavering support of safer gun laws, and for inspiring the next generation to fight for progress. We also honored the outstanding student activists of 2018 with our Lifesaving Service Award. This award was accepted by three students, one from Chicago and two from Parkland—Ke’Shon Newman, Kayla Schaefer, and Olivia Wesch—who are demanding action and accountability from our leaders. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman received the Odgers Pro Bono Partnership Award for the many years they have spent helping us craft effective policy and defend existing gun safety laws.

We are exceedingly grateful for the sponsors and supporters who made this evening possible, and whose generosity and commitment fuels our work every day.

 
View photos of the 25th Anniversary Dinner:

Giffords 395

 
Watch Secretary Clinton’s full remarks:

STATEMENT: Gabrielle Giffords Reacts to Shooting at Texas’s Santa Fe High School

Santa Fe Shooting

May 18, 2018—Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the co-founder of the gun violence prevention organization Giffords, issued the following statement reacting to today’s shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas.

STATEMENT FROM CONGRESSWOMAN GABRIELLE GIFFORDS

“Once again today, students stood before national cameras and detailed the terror that unfolded in their school. We heard children report that they called their parents to say ‘it’s for real this time’ and that they ‘always knew this would eventually happen, it was just a matter of when.’

“I will not stand for this and neither should you. Parents should not have to hug their children in the morning and worry about whether they’ll see them at the end of the day. We don’t have to live in a country where the politicians let this happen again and again and again.

“These students in Texas now have to reckon with the unspeakable trauma of a shooting at their school—the experience of calling their parents in a panic, hearing the shots ring out from a classroom, scrambling and running for their lives. Soon they will attend funerals for their classmates and friends.

“It’s time for America to find the courage to take on the powerful and fight for our own safety. We can’t wall ourselves off from the threat of gun violence—it doesn’t work. Nor can we simply arm ourselves against one another—that makes it more dangerous still.

“We need the courage to take on the special interests who say that nothing can be done, that these acts of evil are beyond our ability to control. They are not. The gun lobby and the politicians who receive the NRA’s checks must understand we will not tolerate another vote against our safety.

“Congress must find the courage to pass the effective laws that can protect our children and stop dangerous people from accessing guns. And if this Congress won’t protect our kids and communities from gun violence, this November we will vote in a Congress that will.”

Background

Background information about gun laws in Texas and background information about school shootings is available here.

Giffords Law Center recently released a report on the impact of gun violence against children. Among its key findings are that:

  • Since Columbine alone, more than 150,000 students in at least 170 elementary, middle, and high schools have experienced school shootings.
  • 91% of children in high-income countries who are killed with firearms live in the United States.
  • Nearly 60% of all high school students report fears of a shooting at their school or in their community.
  • Nearly 40% of children exposed to a shooting will develop PTSD.

Experts Available

The following gun law and law enforcement experts are available for interviews. To arrange an interview, email media@giffords.org:

  • Captain Mark Kelly, Co-founder, Giffords
  • Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Giffords
  • Robyn Thomas, Executive Director, Giffords Law Center (Recently featured on 60 Minutes)
  • David Chipman, Former ATF Agent, Senior Policy Advisor, Giffords
  • Laura Cutilletta, Legal Director, Giffords Law Center
  • Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel, Giffords Law Center
  • Allison Anderman, Managing Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Ari Freilich, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Robin Lloyd, Director of Government Affairs, Giffords
  • Lindsay Nichols, Federal Policy Director, Giffords Law Center
  • Hannah Shearer, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Mike McLively, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center

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Gun Violence Increased by 28% in 2016, According to CDC

It’s no secret that the United States faces a devastating epidemic of gun violence that touches every community across the country. Newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that gun violence impacts an alarming and increasing number of Americans. In 2016 alone, more than 155,000 people were shot—almost 39,000 fatally. That’s 34,000 more gun violence victims than in 2015, and 40,000 more than in 2014. In fact, this new data shows that America’s gun death and injury rates rose for the second straight year in a row, after having remained relatively flat for more than a decade.

Some key takeaways from the new data include:

  • In 2016, 106 people were killed by guns and another 318 were wounded every day.
  • Nonfatal gun injuries increased by nearly 40% from 2015 to 2016—the largest increase in more than a decade.
  • Suicides comprise nearly 60% of gun deaths (22,938 in 2016), yet only 4% of nonfatal firearm injuries. The unique lethality of firearms makes suicide attempts with a gun far more likely to result in death.
  • Firearm homicides and assaults have risen precipitously in the last few years. From 2015 to 2016 alone there was a 10% increase in firearm homicides and a 40% increase in nonfatal firearm assaults.

Although these overall increases are striking, communities of color are disproportionately affected by the uptick in gun violence. For example, the gun death rate among black Americans increased by nearly 11% from 2015 to 2016, and data suggests that many of these increases occurred in underserved urban communities.

Children are also at increasing risk. The new CDC data shows that from 2015 to 2016, gun deaths and injuries among minors jumped by nearly 12%. In 2016 alone, an average of 26 minors were shot each day, and gun violence inflicts consequences on children and communities that go far beyond the physical damage. As we examine in our recent report, Protecting the Parkland Generation: Strategies to Keep America’s Kids Safe from Gun Violence, children exposed to shootings suffer a debilitating psychological toll that can lead to long-term physical health problems, decreased academic performance, and diminished future earnings.

While the new data uncategorically brings to light extremely troubling trends, proven solutions exist to address this crisis—solutions the experts at Giffords Law Center are fighting for every day. Policies outlined in our report Confronting the Inevitability Myth: How Data-Driven Policies Save Lives from Suicide, such as universal background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and waiting periods, help save lives from suicide. Evidence-based violence prevention and intervention strategies, like those explored in our report Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence, have shown incredible success in reducing urban gun violence in a relatively short period of time. And laws that limit firearm access by domestic abusers or require safe storage of firearms help protect children from both the physical and psychological toll of gun violence.

The recent months have brought tremendous progress, with renewed attention on the gun violence crisis as the nation demands change and new lifesaving gun laws passing in states—like Florida and Vermont—with historically weak gun laws. This legislative cycle alone, we’ve already doubled the number of states with extreme risk protection order laws—and more are poised to enact this lifesaving legislation. States are also considering and passing laws that would strengthen the background check system, disarm domestic abusers, and provide funding for violence intervention strategies. This change is as meaningful as it is long overdue, and the alarming new data from the CDC provides further evidence that such action could not be more urgent.

Explore the data further at the CDC’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. 

Read Giffords Law Center’s comprehensive reports on gun suicide, urban gun violence, and school shootings on our publications page.

Giffords Law Center’s 25th Anniversary Dinner, honoring Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton

In 1993, the Bay Area legal community came together in the aftermath of unthinkable tragedy with a vow to save lives from gun violence. Twenty-five years and hundreds of state and local gun laws later, our organization and our movement stand stronger than ever before, with the country on the cusp of lasting, lifesaving change.

Join us on June 14 as we gather to recognize courageous leaders, celebrate progress, and remember those we’ve lost.

Visit giffordslawcenter.org/dinner for event details and to learn how to sponsor the 25th Anniversary Dinner.

2018 COURAGEOUS LEADERSHIP AWARD

Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton

An advocate for gun safety for decades, Secretary Clinton will join the Giffords Law Center community to mark our 25th anniversary and speak about the promising future for the movement to save lives from gun violence. Secretary Clinton’s unwavering calls for stronger gun laws from our country’s most prominent stages have inspired a nation and helped propel the long-overdue reflection and conversation about this deadly epidemic we’re engaged in today. Giffords Law Center is honored to recognize her courage and leadership.

2018 ODGERS PRO BONO AWARD

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

Pillsbury has been an invaluable pro bono partner for many years, most recently leading a bold litigation effort to compel the Department of Defense to improve reporting to the background checks system following November’s tragic mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Named for Richard W. “Dick” Odgers (1936–2014), a beloved founder, supporter, and friend to the Law Center, the Odgers Pro Bono Partner Award recognizes firms like Pillsbury for their outstanding efforts supporting gun lifesaving gun laws and helping build a safer America.

Sponsors

The Anniversary Dinner is only possible through the generous support of our sponsors—organizations and individuals dedicated to Giffords Law Center’s mission to save lives from gun violence. To sponsor the 25th Anniversary Dinner, either pledge a sponsorship online or email a completed sponsorship form to our director of development, Natalie Fall at nfall@giffords.org. For any questions, please contact Natalie by email or at 415-433-2062 x309.

Learn more about the 25th Anniversary Dinner at giffordslawcenter.org/dinner.

Protecting the Next Generation

In the wake of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, three weeks ago, the issue of gun violence and its far-reaching impacts on young people has once again been thrust into the spotlight. Our new report, Protecting the Next Generation: Strategies to Keep America’s Kids Safe from Gun Violence, examines the life-altering implications for the children who witness or survive shootings, particularly with regard to their mental health. Yet, the substantial impact of exposure to violence can be mitigated with the adoption of lifesaving gun safety laws that ensure firearms stay out of the hands of minors and those who may be a threat to themselves or others.

The dangerous consequences of the gun violence epidemic cannot be overstated. School shootings may garner the most attention, but in fact they represent a small percentage of tragedies when it comes to the deadly intersection between kids and guns—many more children experience gun violence in other ways, like domestic violence, urban gun violence, unintentional shootings, and suicide. And the impact of gun violence on kids is staggering:

  • Since Columbine alone, more than 150,000 minors have been shot in the United States. Additionally, 150,000 students in at least 170 elementary, middle, and high school have experienced school shootings.
  • In real economic terms, the annual cost of gun violence to children alone is at least $21 billion.
  • Nearly 60% of all high school students report fears of a mass shooting at their school or in their community.
  • Nearly 40% of children exposed to a shooting will develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Guns are now the third-leading cause of death for all Americans under age 18.

But, as the brave survivors of the Parkland shooting have pointed out, well-researched, concrete solutions exist. There are a host of policies and programs outlined in this report, designed and proven to reduce gun violence and save lives, like:

  • Prevent Access to Guns: Nearly 1.7 million American kids live in homes where guns are loaded and unlocked. Children find them and, tragically, use them in unintentional shootings, teen suicides, and school shootings. Enacting laws that require safe storage, punish adults who make it easy for children to access guns, and encourage the development of gun safety technology will save kids’ lives.
  • Raise the Minimum Age: The shooters in Newtown and Parkland were too young to buy beer but old enough to purchase AR-15–style rifles. We should strengthen age requirements, beginning by prohibiting anyone under 21 from purchasing semiautomatic rifles.
  • Disarm Dangerous People: The Parkland shooter exhibited warning signs that he was armed and dangerous, even posting online that he wanted to become a school shooter. Extreme risk protection order laws allow law enforcement and family members to petition a court to temporarily disarm people like him and other potentially violent individuals.
  • Invest in Urban Gun Violence Prevention and Intervention Programs: For black families in America, the chance of a male child dying from a gunshot wound is 62% higher than dying in a motor vehicle crash. Strategic intervention programs in urban communities plagued by gun violence have been able to cut gun homicide rates by as much as 50% in as little as two years. States should fund and support these lifesaving programs.

It’s long overdue that our lawmakers stand up to the NRA by considering and enacting policies and programs like these. Our children need protection, and they’re speaking out and demanding congressional action on this issue. We’re proud to fight for gun safety alongside these courageous students and invite you to learn more about how lawmakers can help save a generation of kids from experiencing the terror and horror gun violence wreaks on their lives.

Read our new report to learn how your lawmakers can take action for student safety—Protecting the Next Generation: Strategies to Keep Kids Safe from Gun Violence.

PRESS RELEASE: 50-State Analysis Shows Undeniable Correlation between Gun Safety Laws and Reduced Gun Deaths

Giffords Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard grades and ranks all 50 states on their gun laws

States with the highest gun death rates consistently have weak gun laws. Half of the nation—25 states—receive an F grade

March 1, 2018—Today, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released the latest edition of its Annual Gun Law Scorecard, which grades and ranks each state on the strength of its gun laws. This comprehensive, 50-state analysis clearly shows how stronger gun laws like background checks help reduce gun death rates and save lives.

“Every day in our country, nearly 100 Americans die from gun violence. While this crisis is impacting families in every community in every state, we know its toll disproportionately hits states with weaker gun laws the hardest,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Year after year, our research shows that states that get serious about passing stronger gun violence prevention laws have a much better chance of reducing the number of deaths linked to firearms. This scorecard should be a wake-up call to the half of the nation that has failing grades that they are on notice. The Gun Law Scorecard should inspire elected leaders, activists, and concerned citizens to take action.”

The Annual Gun Law Scorecard makes clear that there is a significant opportunity to address the nation’s gun violence epidemic if more states act. Since 2014, the gun death rate has been rising, with gun deaths jumping 8% from 2014 to 2015 and another 7% from 2015 to 2016. That resulted in the deaths of 38,000 people in 2016—the deadliest year for gun deaths since 1993.

 

Of the 10 states with the lowest gun death rates, eight have some of the strongest gun laws in the country, receiving a B or better. All eight have also  passed private-sale background checks. Those eight states are:

  • Massachusetts

  • Rhode Island

  • New York

  • Hawaii

  • Connecticut

  • New Jersey

  • California

  • Washington

Yet, even with such powerful data showing that states with stronger gun laws have lower death rates, many states have done nothing. The 10 states with the highest gun death rates have some of the weakest gun laws in the nation—with all 10 receiving an F the Gun Law Scorecard. They are, in order of deadliness:

  • Alaska

  • Alabama

  • Louisiana

  • Mississippi

  • Oklahoma

  • Montana

  • Missouri

  • New Mexico

  • Arkansas

  • South Carolina

States continue trend of passing stronger laws 
The scores for some states reflect the continued efforts of Giffords to help lawmakers in state capitals pass strong gun safety measures. Six states—North Dakota, New Jersey, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah—received additional points this year for new domestic violence laws, with Tennessee raising its grade from an F to a D-. The state established procedures to ensure domestic abusers surrender firearms after becoming prohibited. Other states enacted laws to prohibit domestic violence misdemeanants and subjects of domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns.

Five states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York—received more points for funding urban gun violence intervention and prevention programs,which are remarkably effective at saving lives. Last December, Giffords Law Center, in partnership with PICO National Network and the Community Justice Reform Coalition, released a landmark report, Investing in Intervention: The Critical Role of State-Level Support in Breaking the Cycle of Urban Gun Violence, which highlights innovative programs in three states that dramatically reduce levels of gun violence in impacted communities.

Another state, Oregon, received additional points for enacting an Extreme Risk Protection Order law that empowers families and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from people proven to be at risk to themselves or others. Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown signed an ERPO bill into law after members of the Giffords Oregon Coalition testified on behalf of the bill and urged Oregon leaders to pass it.

Politicians ignoring the will of the people hurt their state’s gun law scores—and safety 
States also experienced setbacks. Nevada’s grade dropped from a C- to a D because a ballot initiative approved by voters in 2016 requiring background checks on private sales of firearms was not implemented. Nevada’s attorney general has refused to let the law take  effect because of a dispute with the FBI over who should conduct the background checks. While voters strongly approved the background check law to help make sure dangerous individuals can’t buy guns, the attorney general, who spoke of his opposition to the requirement during a speech at the NRA Convention last year, set the state’s score, and public safety, back.

Two other states—North Dakota and New Hampshire—lost points for enacting permitless carry laws in 2017. Iowa also dropped from a C to a C- because of a new stand your ground law. Stand your ground laws remove a person’s “duty to retreat” in a public conflict, allowing them to shoot to kill even when they could safely walk away.

Activists are leading the charge to beat back dangerous gun lobby bills
This year’s Gun Law Scorecard also highlights how gun violence prevention advocates’ success in thwarting gun lobby–backed bills allowed many states to keep their high grades. In 2017, advocates were successful in stopping 26 permitless carry bills, which would allow people to carry loaded guns in public without a permit or oversight. Advocates alsostopped 20 states from enacting measures to allow guns on college and university campuses and beat back stand your ground laws in 11 other states.

Visit the Annual Gun Law Scorecard at gunlawscorecard.org

Experts Available for Comment

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Explore the Annual Gun Law Scorecard

We’re so proud to release the Annual Gun Law Scorecard—every year, we grade each state based on the strength or weakness of its gun laws. Over the years, the Scorecard has brought forward a straightforward but compelling truth: by investing in proven solutions to gun violence, working both with lawmakers and community-based leaders, we can drastically reduce gun death rates and shore up public safety from this widespread crisis that takes more than 38,000 American lives each year.

The information visualized in the Scorecard is required reading in the current political climate—we’ve seen the level of discourse elevate since the tragic shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida took 17 lives too soon. Following the emotional pleas of student survivors, lawmakers are being urged by constituents to pass the kind of gun safety laws that would prevent such shootings from tearing apart other communities.

This year’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard reveals, yet again, the undeniable correlation between a state’s gun laws and its gun death rate. States with the weakest laws, like Mississippi and Alaska (ranked 50 and 44, respectively) have some of our nation’s highest gun death rates (4 and 1). Meanwhile, states with a strong commitment to saving lives from gun violence, like California and Connecticut (ranked 1 and 3, respectively), have low gun death rates to match (43 and 45, respectively). This data correlates with our research that shows that lifesaving solutions to gun violence, like universal background checks and urban violence intervention programs, work to reduce gun death rates at the state level.

In October, 2017 our nation was forced to cope with the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, when a gunman opened fire over a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, killing 58 and injuring a stunning 851 more. The shooter used a deadly accessory known as a “bump stock” to fire into the crowd more rapidly, essentially turning a military-style weapon into a machine gun. 

In the wake of the tragedy, lawmakers and the public called on Congress to ban this dangerous accessory, but so far, progress on this piece of legislation has been hamstrung by the gun lobby and its profit-before-people agenda. The renewed national attention to our movement added many more essential voices of support to the fight for gun safety legislation.

This year’s analysis of the status of gun laws in all 50 states revealed:

  • Impressive progress for gun safety laws at the state level: Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, our movement has worked to pass more than 210 new gun safety laws in 45 states and Washington DC.
  • Laws to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence remain popular: Women in domestic violence situations are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has a gun—this grim fact led lawmakers in eight states to pass laws preventing domestic abusers from accessing firearms, even in states with strong gun cultures, like Louisiana and North Dakota.
  • Community-based solutions to gun violence are gaining traction: This year, two states with strong gun laws, Connecticut and California, passed bills that secured funding for violence intervention and prevention programs in underserved urban communities.

  • Defeat of campus-carry bills: The gun violence prevention movement scored major defensive victories by standing up against irresponsible legislation that would allow hidden, loaded weapons to be carried on college campuses. Activists defeated dangerous guns-on-campus bills in 18 states.

  • Other victories: Additionally, states moved to save lives in a number of other areas, with Oregon passing an Extreme Risk Protection Order, Massachusetts banning bump stocks, and California passing a law that prohibits hate crime offenders from possessing guns for 10 years.

To learn more about how your state can strengthen its gun laws in these and other essential ways, explore the Annual Gun Law Scorecard. The evidence is clear—enacting gun safety policies like universal background checks, extreme risk protection order laws, and funding for community-based violence intervention programs saves lives. 

STATEMENT: Gabrielle Giffords on the Mass School Shooting in Florida

WASHINGTON DC—Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the co-founder of the gun violence prevention organization Giffords, issued the following statement reacting to today’s mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

STATEMENT FROM CONGRESSWOMAN GABRIELLE GIFFORDS:

“The accounts from today’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida strike fear into all Americans. Is it safe to send our kids to school? Are we safe in our homes and communities? But our fear cannot compare to what our innocent children felt as the gunshots rang out, bullets flew through the halls of their school, and their teachers and classmates were gunned down.

“Even in our grief, we must summon the courage to fight against this fear. Americans must find the courage to imagine a country where these massacres do not occur. Our leaders must find the courage to escape the confines of their politics and pursue the moral necessity of peace and safety.

“If I could offer protection to the 315 Americans who are shot every day, I would. But we can’t wall ourselves from the threat of gun violence, nor will we find safety in the deadly cycle of arming ourselves against each other.

“The defenders of the status quo—advocates of the firearms industry and the politicians paid to defend it— will tell you that events like these are virtual acts of nature, products of mental illness or bad parenting, beyond our ability to control. This could not be further from the truth. Every day we fail to take action, we choose this fate. We tolerate politicians who fail to acknowledge this crisis and vote against our safety. We let our gun violence epidemic continue day after deadly day.

“My heart is with the victims and survivors, and my gratitude is with Broward County’s courageous first responders. The question now is if we will find the courage to pass the laws we need to protect our children, to stop dangerous people from accessing guns. And if Congress won’t act, American voters must.”

The following gun law and law enforcement experts are available for interviews.
To arrange an interview, email media@giffords.org:

  • Captain Mark Kelly, Co-Founder, Giffords
  • Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Giffords
  • Robyn Thomas, Executive Director, Giffords Law Center (Recently featured on 60 Minutes)
  • David Chipman, Former ATF Agent, Senior Policy Advisor, Giffords
  • Allison Anderman, Managing Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Laura Cutilletta, Legal Director, Giffords Law Center
  • Ari Freilich, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center
  • Robin Lloyd, Director of Government Affairs, Giffords
  • Lindsay Nichols, Federal Policy Director, Giffords Law Center
  • Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel, Giffords Law Center
  • Hannah Shearer, Staff Attorney, Giffords Law Center