From 1993 to 2001, an annual average of 737,360 violent crimes were committed with handguns in the U.S., making handguns seven times more likely to be used to commit violent crimes than other firearms.1

Although handguns make up only 34% of firearms, approximately 80% of firearm homicides are committed with a handgun.2

Women face an especially high risk of handgun violence.3 In 2008, 71% of female homicide victims were killed with a handgun.4

A California study found that in the first year after the purchase of a handgun, suicide was the leading cause of death among handgun purchasers.5 In the first week after the purchase of a handgun, the firearm suicide rate among the purchasers was 57 times as high as the adjusted rate in the general population.6

A 1991 study documenting the effectiveness of Washington, D.C.’s law banning handguns (this law was recently repealed following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling finding it unconstitutional in District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008)) found that following the enactment of the ban in 1976, there was a 25% decline in homicides committed with firearms and a 23% decline in suicides committed with firearms within the District of Columbia.7 No similar reductions were observed in the number of homicides or suicides committed by other means, nor were similar reductions found in the adjacent metropolitan areas in Maryland and Virginia.8

As a result of its now-repealed handgun ban, the District of Columbia had the lowest rate of youth suicide in the nation – lower than any state.9

For more information about the dangers of handguns, see the Violence Policy Center publication Unintended Consequences: Pro-Handgun Experts Prove that Handguns Are a Dangerous Choice for Self-Defense.

  1. Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, National Crime Victimization Survey, 1993-2001 — Weapon Use and Violent Crime 3 (Sept. 2003). ⤴︎
  2. Violence Policy Center, Handgun Ban Backgrounder (1999), at ⤴︎
  3. Garen J. Wintemute et al., Mortality Among Recent Purchasers of Handguns, 341 New Eng. J. Med. 1583, 1585 (Nov. 18, 1999). ⤴︎
  4. Violence Policy Center, When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2008 Homicide Data 7 (Sept. 2010), at ⤴︎
  5. Garen J. Wintemute et al., Mortality Among Recent Purchasers of Handguns, 341 New Eng. J. Med. 1583-1584 (Nov. 18, 1999). ⤴︎
  6. Id. at 1585. ⤴︎
  7. Colin Loftin et al., Effects of Restrictive Licensing of Handguns on Homicide and Suicide in the District of Columbia, 325 New Eng. J. Med. 1615, 1615-1620 (Dec. 5, 1991). ⤴︎
  8. Id. ⤴︎
  9. Violence Policy Center, Safe at Home: How D.C.’s Gun Laws Save Children’s Lives (July 2005), at ⤴︎