Specific Actions You (yes, YOU) Can Take To Help With Gun Violence (and the data to support it)

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I put together a series of slides on Instagram with this information, but also wanted to include it here for searchability, accessibility, and and longer-term access. I hope this data helps guide you in your actions toward creating safer, healthier communities, schools, and homes.

Data: Firearm violence is prolific
Action: Advocate for tightened, need-based gun laws and permits

  • Firearm-related injuries are now the leading cause of death in children and adolescents in the US
  • The vast majority of other causes of childhood death have declined in the last 20 years. Firearm-related deaths have spiked significantly, especially in the last decade.
  • Over 2/3 of guns for mass shootings were obtained legally. We need a higher bar for legal purchases.
  • The US has FAR more firearms per person than any other country in the world at about 120 guns per 100 people. The next closest is Yemen, at 52 per 100 people, followed by Serbia & Montenegro at 39. The US is the ONLY country in the world that has more guns than people. It is the only statistically proven link to greater gun violence in the US versus other countries.
  • State permit laws that are required for any type of firearm were associated with a 60 percent lower odds of a mass public shooting and decrease overall rates of firearm homicide.
  • 9% of mass shootings were by someone with a history of domestic violence.
  • It’s now legal in 21 states to carry hidden guns in public without a permit, compared with four states in 2014.

ACTION: Call reps about state permits, supporting stricter federal gun legislation, & enacting legislation to prevent those with a history of DV from obtaining a firearm. Volunteer with sister districts to support elsewhere if you have reps already supporting these policies. Donate to Moms Demand Action and/or Everytown.

Data: Background checks help significantly
Action: Advocate for stricter checks & closing loopholes

  • 29 states still allow gun sales by unlicensed sellers, eliminating the need for a background check.
  • 22% of Americans report acquiring their most recent gun without a background check.
  • Inconclusive background checks can be extended for 3 days, which is sometimes not enough for the FBI to complete its check. In 2015, a mass shooter who should’ve failed a check was able to obtain a weapon due to the examiner not obtaining his record in time.
  • 1 in 3 mass shootings involved a shooter that was legally prohibited from possessing firearms at the time of the shooting. Closing background check loopholes can help prevent those legally prohibited from having a firearm from obtaining them.
  • A number of other countries (all with much lower rates of gun violence) require strict background checks, exams, regular gun license renewal, character references, limit public carrying, require safe storage, and/or a valid reason to own a firearm.
  • States that require background checks for unlicensed gun sales are correlated with 10% lower homicide rates.

ACTION: Call reps to support federal legislation to expand background checks on gun sales, extend purchaser wait time, & establish requirements for private party transfers (HR8, HR1446, S.529). For Dem reps, encourage continued support as well as support for a filibuster exception to pass with a simple majority.

Encourage support for confirming Steve Dettelbach as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Data: Large capacity magazines increase violence
Action: Advocate to ban semiautomatic weapons, LCMs

  • Semiautomatic weapons account for 1% of overall shootings but 25% of mass shootings (including Buffalo and potentially Uvalde; we don’t know for sure yet but do know he purchased 2 of them on his 18th birthday a few days prior).
  • Large capacity magazine bans were associated with a 38 percent reduction in fatal victimizations and 77 percent reduction in nonfatal victimizations.
  • Currently, only 7 states and Washington DC prohibit assault weapons.
  • Researchers estimate that if we still had a federal Assault Weapon Ban, we’d see 70% fewer deaths associated with mass shootings.

ACTION: Call your reps about supporting bans on on semiautomatic weapons, LCMs. Donate to orgs working toward this. Encourage support for bills like SB1327 just passed in CA to allow private citizens to file suit against makers/sellers of assault weapons.

Data: Guns are rarely helpful in self-defense
Action: Advocate for other forms of safety protections

  • While 65% of men and 71% of women gun owners say the primary reason they carry is for protection, having a firearm in the home, even when it’s properly stored, doubles your risk of becoming a victim of homicide and triples the risk of suicide.
  • Guns often fail to stop guns. Both Buffalo and Uvalde had “good guys” that tried to stop the shooters but couldn’t because of their body armor and the capacity of their weapons.
  • Guns are only very rarely are used in self-protective behavior. Between 2014-2016, intended victims of violent crimes used them for self-defense in only 1.1% of incidents, and intended victims of property crimes used them in 0.3% of incidents. And in 2017, for every justifiable homicide involving a gun, guns were used in a whopping 35 criminal homicides. During one study of 626 shootings in or around a residence, only 13 were legally justifiable or an act of self-defense. Those same guns were significantly more likely to be involved in an unintentional shooting, criminal assault, or suicide attempt.
  • Of nearly 300 scientists published on firearms in peer-reviewed scientific journals, 84% said that having a gun in the home increased suicide risk, 72% agree it increases the risk that a woman living in the home will be a homicide victim, & 64% agree it makes the home more dangerous overall.

ACTION: Work against a culture that glorifies firearms as a form of defense. Demilitarize police. Evaluate and discuss media that highlights defensive firearm use. Consider stricter controls/valid reason requirements for self-defense firearm purchases (like in other countries). Stop catering to misguided beliefs on the right to bear arms for the purpose of self-defense.

Data: Most school shooters are young
Action: Raise the age to legally purchase a firearm, invest in accessible mental health services, but refrain from blaming mental health for gun violence

  • The average age of gunmen in mass school shootings is 18, a full 7 years before the prefrontal cortex is fully developed. By contrast, the legal drinking age is 21, and is generally 25 to rent most cars.
  • Over 95% of mass shooters are male.
  • Over 30% of mass shooters were suicidal prior to their attacks, and another 40% intend to die during the attack.
  • Still, only about 5% of known rampage shooters had a known psychotic disorder. The link between mental illness and violent behavior is small and not useful for predicting violent acts.
  • CNN research identified 288 school shootings between January 2009 and May 2018 in the U.S. By comparison, CNN found Canada and France each had two, Germany had one, and Japan, Italy and the United Kingdom had none. Based on those numbers, the U.S. had 57 times more school shootings in that time period than the other G7 countries combined. Mexico had eight school shootings in the same period, and South Africa had six, according to CNN. India had five while Pakistan and Nigeria each had four. When including numbers through 2022, the discrepancy with the US is even wider.
  • Even in the unlikely and non-data-substantiated event that mental health issues in the US far outstrip those in other countries, we should be limiting the number of and access to firearms so that those not capable of safely managing them cannot use them.
  • Close loopholes with reporting/tracking unstable behaviors – e.g., the Parkland attacker had a history of violent, racist threats that school officials communicated to law enforcement, but without follow up.

ACTION: Raise the age to purchase a firearm. Invest in federally funded & easily accessible mental health services. Avoid ableist language that blames mass shootings on mental illness. Invest in emotional regulation, discussion, understanding, and connection from young ages, especially for boys. Work toward better reporting/tracking + a common database. Fund community violence intervention programs.

Data: Racism, antisemitism, & other bias is connected
Action: Invest in inclusive, equitable education at school & home

  • Not all mass shootings involves racism, white supremacy, and other forms of bias, but some do.
  • While hate and lack of kindness can be factors, supremacist ideas and inequity, especially lack of decolonized educational curricula and lack of diversity in educational content often influence various supremacist ideas.

ACTION: Invest in inclusive children’s literature in homes and schools. Decolonize educational curricula, invest in ABAR training for teachers, and take actionable steps to make classrooms more inclusive. Create actionable DEI steps for students of color, disabled students, LGBTQ+ students, and more. Prioritize time on bringing in varied perspectives through read alouds, guest teachers, art projects, and more. Bring these perspectives into your home, and specifically ask your teachers about how you can help diversify classroom resources. Center marginalized communities and their experiences.

Data: US gun violence exceeds other countries
Action: Learn from actions of other countries

  • In the wake of tragedy, other countries have enacted almost immediate gun control regulation with wide support. Freedom to bear arms isn’t worth the cost of freedom to live.
  • Americans own nearly half of all the civilian-owned guns in the world (with less than 5% of the global population), and has far more guns per capita than any other nation.
  • 15 constitutions around the world have explicitly included the right to bear arms. 12 have rescinded that right.
  • Here are some things that other countries have done:
    • Prohibited automatic and semiautomatic rifles
    • Required rigorous background checks on a federal level
    • Instituted buyback programs
    • Required a firearm safety course
    • Tightened laws around or banned handguns
    • Proof of “valid reason” for a firearm
    • Pass a home inspection
    • Higher ages for gun ownership
    • Not outfitting police with firearms
    • Limiting locations of sale
    • Regularly updates to firearm licenses
    • Interviewed next of kin and required character references

ACTION: Advocate for legislation on any number of these things. Call your reps. And then do it again.

Data: It’s not just Congress
Action: VOTE

  • While assault rifles are clearly dangerous, handguns are the deadliest weapons in the US, by far.
  • Handguns account for about 60% of murders committed with a firearm in the US. (This is overall, including those where the type of firearm was uncertain. Handguns are generally used in about 90% of gun murders where the type of firearm is known.)
  • Nearly 80% of US murders in 2020 involved a firearm, with the majority of those being handguns.
  • States with stricter gun laws have lower gun deaths per 100k people
  • The current US Supreme Court is fairly hostile to gun laws, and has not shown that it will uphold lower court rulings on things like assault weapon bans and handgun bans (Heller)

ACTION: Advocate for stricter state legislation. Carefully consider votes for Congresspeople who make laws, as well as for the President who has power over molding the Supreme Court.

Sources:

  • The Violence project
  • Every town
  • Congressional Research Service
  • Annals of Internal Medicine
  • NRA
  • New York Times
  • Business Insider
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • Rockefeller Institute
  • Harvard School of Public Health
  • Pew Research Center
  • Violence Policy Center

Further Thoughts:

A few people requested that I share some of the comments (with common arguments from those against gun reform) from the Instagram post with my rebuttals based on the available data. I am pasting those below.

Re: Firearm Training + Using Guns in Defense

Dan’s Note: Some of the world’s most highly trained gun carriers were at the FBI – where training included rational decision making while literally under fire. If the best in the world can’t be 100% every time, how absurd is the belief that everyone untrained will somehow be able to accurately and successfully wield a firearm in times of crisis.

Commenter: The fbi wasn’t the first responders. Furthermore police and fbi are not highly trained. They have a few requalifications a year and basic training in firearms. Swat teams practice more. But there are many recreational shooters who are many times more proficient than fbi and police. Again, it seems your wealth and privilege is showing because you must live in a upper class gated community where robbers don’t stalk you. Maybe you should live here in Baltimore. It must be nice to have that privilege you have making sure that I don’t have the ability to defend myself from dope dealers and gang members doing initiations.

Preethi’s Response: Danliterally worked for the FBI. They are extraordinarily trained. Please stop weaponizing and completely misunderstanding the definition of privilege. The data is clear dangerous communities become more dangerous with more guns. I won’t be responding any more because it is clear you refuse to discuss actual facts and I won’t get roped into hypotheticals and straw man arguments – literally no one is trying to take your gun and I won’t have you derail me from actual conversations and solutions. Take care.

Commenter: What happened is beyond horrible. Taking or limiting guns won’t stop tragedies. There are other issues. Mental health. Broken families. Bullying. No one addresses those issues. That should be the conversation. But it doesn’t go that way. You haven’t brought it up. But when a tragedy occurs it becomes political because there are those in politics who want to take guns away to conquer people (Somalia, nazi Germany, Iraq, yes Ukraine is a relevant point). Don’t think it couldn’t happen in the US. Why blame a gun? Where do violent video games that glorify killing play into this? Violent music. How does the nra get blamed? They promote sport shooting help law enforcement tremendously with training seminars and hunting. Maybe if you have to have a background check for a gun maybe one needs to be vetted prior to playing a violent video game to ensure the game won’t inspire evil doings. But where do you draw the line. Given the sheer number of assault rifles and so very few use them to kill means 99.9% are not the bad people they are made out to be. You must realize the difference between gangs shooting other gangs and evil shooting those not involved in there criminal enterprises. The more guns actually make places safer. Schools are gun free zones. Bad guys know they can go there. Shooting ranges don’t have mass shootings. Gun shops don’t get robbed when workers are present. Gas stations do. Making a law to feel good doesn’t stop anything. It’s just a law on the books. The bad guys don’t care about a statute. When some want to converse and look deeper into the issue they get shut down. Which is what you do to me. I have shown resources for statistics from a reputable source and you didn’t like that. Also are you implying you were an FBI agent when you said you literally worked for them? Can you detail why the firearms training was?

Preethi: I cannot have a conversation with someone who refuses to agree on factual data. You say I haven’t brought up bullying and mental health – actually, I have, right in these very slides. Just because you say I haven’t brought something up doesn’t make it a true statement. If you’ve been here for any amount of time, you know I discuss these things often, and literally today provided a resource to help families broaden perspectives and better support marginalized communities. But the fact remains that bullying is not statistically causal for school shooters. (I actually researched this extensively because I had started a slide on it, but found that the data that indicated it was causal is nearly 30 years old, and more recent scholarly articles prove that link false, one of many being Langman, 2015, 2017, on the Dept. of Ed website.)

You have shown zero statistics, zero percentages, zero figures. You shared ONE source for me to look up on my own when I’ve already provided tons of labor and provided literally dozens of statistics AND reputable sources with actual facts and figures. You continuing to say guns make places safer doesn’t make it true. The data – here in these slides and much more elsewhere – is clear that while that May be your hope, is a falsehood. It’s a lie. It is simply not true, and you claiming it to be so doesn’t make it so. Finally (and this truly is my final statement to you – I will no longer waste energy on someone who refuses to look at facts), I said Dan worked for the FBI, not me. He was not an agent, but worked very closely with many, knows the ins and outs of agent training and had rigorous training and background checks himself, and is extremely familiar with the process (though cannot detail the process for obvious reasons). If you would actually trust a random gun owner over a federally trained agent with a firearm, I truly do not know what to say to you.

2nd Commenter: Your 99.9% argument is horrifying. For every 1000 people who have an assault rifle, 1 person could use it for “bad”? There are approx 20 million AR-15s in circulation. 100% of people do not need assault rifles.

Re: Further Police & Military Presence

Commenter: It sucks some one went into a school and killed. We should do more to protect the kids and staff in the schools. How many former military would love to have those jobs. How many former police would love to have that job. With the world going in a shit direction guns will be the only things stopping bad from going door to door.

Preethi: This is false. Law enforcement WAS present and failed to stop this from happening, despite the shooter actively shooting OUTSIDE for 12 minutes and inside for nearly an hour. Texas is the most heavily armed state in the country. More guns will not stop gun violence, and the data included in the slides very clearly supports that. You choosing to state the opposite doesn’t make it true.

Re: Firearms Not Helping Marginalized Communities, Guns Not Stopping Violence, Societal Problems, 2nd Amendment

Commenter: I hope we have people here who can consider other options and can respect other viewpoints. What I mean is this: more laws aren’t going to stop people who are going to kill lots of people. Instead, more laws limit access. Many of the firearms laws meant to protect against violence actually limit people who cannot afford the licensing fees. They further discriminate against non-white people with cost barriers, cultural barriers, and endless paperwork. As the statistics you posted indicate, more laws do not stop horrible acts like this. Additionally, banning guns also does not stop violence. Look to England to see how that has worked. They have mass stabbings instead. Or cars crashing into large crowds of people. Finally, many of the sources cited for statistics here have their own slant and have very loose definitions which make it appear dramatically worse than it is. (Anyone who has done research knows how easy it is to make data appear in your favor). The FBI is a much better source for statistics on gun violence albeit their website is not nearly as user friendly. Finally, guns are used successfully in self-defense in our country everyday. It just does not make the news. USCCA posts articles that articulate these incidents on their website. What can be done? I think this points to much bigger societal problems: mom not in the home as much (I’m saying this as a working mother of 3), major mental health problems in our society that have never been addressed well (contributing to drug problems also), and generally the degradation of society from moral standards and holding people responsible for their choices. I believe our Founding Fathers had insight into why it is every citizen’s right to bear arms (I think we can agree that prior felons, those who have committed certain acts of violence and some rare cases of mental illness can be exempt). I think people in Ukraine can really understand the need to bear arms – and many surrounding countries.

Preethi: Hi friend. I appreciate you reading. I’ll respond in a few comments because it got too long. 1) banning guns doesn’t stop violence: this is one of the few areas this argument is used. No one says, “people still get injured in car crashes so forget about seat belts” or “kids still get injured so may as well give them knives as playthings.” Will injuries still happen? Of course. Murders will still happen. But those stabbings in England to which you refer are a drop in the bucket by comparison. Moreover, “banning guns” is not even remotely on the table of plausibility. No one who is actually working for change is actually trying to ban them completely right now because they know that’s a political impossibility (though at this point I personally honestly wish it weren’t). It’s illogical to start with that as a premise. Basically – will people still harm others? Yes. And it’s ludicrous to make it significantly easier for those seeking to harm to do so, and to larger numbers of people.

2) Much of the data used was straight from federally funded sources. If there is additional/different data from the FBI that I’m missing, you’re welcome to send it to me. But making general claims that the data is wrong and that guns are used successfully for self-defense regularly is both myopic and stubborn. The data is extremely clear that more guns reduce overall safety, not increase it. Science has provided repeated evidence of this, and we can’t have a conversation if you simply say you don’t believe it. 🤷🏽‍♀️

3) Regarding limiting access to marginalized communities: quite frankly, marginalized communities don’t need people suddenly advocating for equity on this one point. Most are not clamoring for more guns. They’re clamoring for education, safety (which often involves FEWER GUNS, especially with police bias), healthcare, food access, and so much more. Start there. Then we can talk firearm access. Also, gun violence is even more common in marginalized communities, and they are already suffering more of those effects. As discussed above, data shows that more guns increases instead of decreases violence, which does not serve these communities.

4) Does this point to other needs? Sure. We absolutely need more mental healthcare funding and access. We need to not control women’s bodies with caring for humans for which they have little to no support. We need more equitable educational programming and access. We need food for those children in schools. We need parental leave. We need many long-term solutions, but a) many of the same people advocating for not restricting gun access refuse to invest in these other solutions and b) those things take time and can be done in conjunction with firearm restrictions. It’s not either/or. We should be doing ALL the things to help. And we can work on short-term solutions to keep people from dying alongside longer-term solutions. As far as our society becoming morally degraded overall? That’s a flat-out lie that keeps being spewed by pundits that also isn’t backed by data. We’re not becoming more evil. We as humans have more freedoms and protections, especially for marginalized communities, today than we did 50 or 100 or 500 years ago. We have a long way to go, but it’s both false and also weaponizing the vulnerable to claim things are just getting morally worse.

Finally, re: Ukraine – it’s abhorrent to make that comparison. Their political AND cultural situation is vastly different. The US is not in that position. The vast majority of US gun owners are not those in vulnerable positions – they’re those who already have more than their share of power. And even with the lack of clear and present political and physical danger, the US per capita gun ownership still FAR outstrips that of Ukraine – we have about 120 guns per 100 people. Ukraine has about 10. It is bananas to think we’d ever need anywhere close to that many. It is literally zero surprise we have a gun epidemic when we have that many guns. No other – I repeat, NO OTHER – country in the world has even close to this many guns per capita (next closest is Yemen at 52) and it’s reflected in our gun violence numbers. We cannot behave vastly differently from every other country on earth, and then refuse to believe that out behaviors influence our outcomes. They are directly related, and it’s unconscionable that we continue to focus on a “freedom” that no one else in the world has or wants at the expense of our children and so many more.

One final thought on data – we need vastly more of it for sure. We’d have a more complete picture with lots more of it. But do you know why we don’t? Because money toward firearm research has been repeatedly stripped. I’m talking federally-funded research awards being withheld. Why? Largely because the NRA has lobbied to keep those dollars from being used in research that could incriminate them. Money earmarked for research has literally been diverted repeatedly because of one of the most powerful special interest lobby groups in the country. The NIH & CDC awarded firearm research grants for the first time in TWO DECADES just last year. So if we want more robust data from federal sources, perhaps we should stop being bullied by a private organization into not doing research that might work against them.

Commenter 2: I live in the UK and it’s extremely disingenuous to compare mass shootings where someone can mow down tens of people in mere minutes to “mass stabbings” which are defined as stabbing of two or more people in one incidence. You can’t stab 21 people in the amount of time you can shoot them. And do you really think the founding fathers had the current situation in the States in mind when they wrote the Constitution? They are rolling in their graves. This is a matter of national emergency. Other western countries have banned guns and dramatically reduced gun deaths. Why can’t the USA?

Re: Arming Teachers

Commenter 1: This is a great list. Thank you for sharing. So many of us trying to piece together the same puzzle. I don’t get taking guns away from police though. Especially as it applies here, as taking down the shooter is finally what saved more lives.

Preethi: guns won’t be taken from police – that’s not even remotely on the table in the US. Even those advocating for demilitarizing police specifically just require documentation and justification for equipment and situations. This is not a comparable situation to an unarmed convenience store theft, for instance, and shouldn’t be treated as such in terms of weaponry.

Commenter 2: and if a teacher were permitted to carry concealed in the school, perhaps this could have been stopped even sooner with fewer lives lost. Regardless of your view on this subject, this is a very sad situation and I also worry for my kids in schools.

Preethi: honestly, even the thought of asking teachers to manage guns on top of everything we ask of them is appalling. Teachers are there to TEACH. Not wield weapons. The gun would be much more likely to injure someone in the classroom. Not to mention the huge question mark of why we keep burdening victims with protecting themselves instead of changing systems and laws so that they don’t have to…

Commenter 2: with your line of thought that means fire extinguishers must be removed from the classroom. They are there to teach and not fight fires and save mere property. When fire extinguishers were brought up did people argue against that? For your information laws do not stop bad people. It was illegal for him to kill. It’s on the law books. Why do you think he would obey any other law prohibiting him from buying a gun? We can ban guns like we ban cocaine and heroine and get the same results. We still have a drug problem. And the founding fathers context does the second amendment was to protect citizens from a tyrannical government. Kinda like nazis with the Jews, Somalia , Russia during the Russian revolution. It seems your wealth and privilege has blinded you to others plight. If guns were magically gone you’d still have deaths and murders. Are you fine with that as long as it wasn’t a gun?

Preethi: I will not get pulled into arguments that don’t make sense. Fire extinguishers will not accidentally kill someone when deployed by someone who is not highly trained, especially under pressure. It is a ludicrous comparison. @sharonsaysso , a longtime teacher, has a bunch of stories today on why it’s a terrible idea to arm teachers – I suggest you go listen there. As far as obeying the laws, of course they will always have people who break them. But limiting ACCESS, the point of the laws, can make it more difficult for those who would break them to get them in the first place. Limiting access to assault weapons would lower the overall number of people dying in situations like this. To claim we need perfection in order to enact any rules is not helpful. We can do SOMETHING and make SOME progress. Finally, please to do significantly more historical research about the Founding Fathers – they NEVER intended for every citizen to have access to guns. It was specifically for the purpose of states rights, and assault weapons were nowhere on the radar at the time. So no, of course I wouldn’t still be okay with deaths and murders and of course they’d still happen. But I’d pick the proven way fewer deaths and murders without guns than the way more with guns EVERY time.

Commenter 3: so at the highschool in Florida (my mind is drawing a blank on the name), there was an on duty reaource officer there. Trained weapon carrying police officer. He froze and didnt respond. So if a fully trained law enforcement officer freezes and doesnt do what they are paid to do, what do you think an untrained civilian teacher would do? There are alao studies that if you Google you can look into the validity of teachers carrying a weapon. It is abysmal.


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