Just the Facts

Five Facts on Gun Violence

By Emma Petasis
February 14, 2019 | Blog

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Parkland, Fla. shooting that killed 17 students and staff members, and injured 17 others. The tragedy sparked over one million participants to advocate for stronger gun laws at the March for Our Lives rally in March 2018. As we remember and honor the lives of those lost, here are five facts on the current discussion and legislation surrounding gun violence  in the United States.

Since the Parkland shooting, some state legislatures have taken steps to address gun violence.

According to the Giffords Law Center 26 states and the District of Columbia enacted 67 new gun safety laws in 2018. According to the Tampa Bay Times 18 laws have disqualified more people from owning a firearm, and 11 laws place “red flag laws,” which allow citizens to petition courts to take away a firearm from someone who poses a danger to themselves or others. Nine states have passed laws to outlaw bump stocks. Notably, Washington was the only state to put forward a statewide ballot measure regarding gun safety. The measure that  raises from 18 to 21 the legal age to own an assault rifle and created a waiting period of 10 business days to purchase a gun, passed.

This week, House members put forward the first major piece of congressional legislation on gun safety in over a year.

The Washington Post reports that the House Judiciary Committee passed a measure Wednesday night that would require background checks for all gun sales and the majority of gun transfers after a nine-hour debate over the bill. Ultimately, the committee voted 21 to 14 to advance to a vote on the House floor. Notably, the measure received bipartisan support, with at least five Republicans supporting the bill. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat who represents Parkland’s district, held a moment of silence on the House floor Wednesday to honor the victims, the Post reported. “I ask that we work together not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans, to end this silence with action to make all of our communities safer from gun violence,” the congressman said. Despite first steps to tighten federal gun laws, however, the legislation is not expected to pass in the Senate.

According to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, 51 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws in the United States.

Pollsters reported that the most recent survey reflects a trend in public opinion on guns: In the aftermath of mass shootings there is a bump in support for restrictions, but public attention tends to fade over time. According to the 2019 Reuters/Ipsos poll, support for gun safety could even be higher. Reuters reported that 69% of Americans expressed desire for “strong or moderate” restrictions to be placed on firearms, and only 14% reported being “very confident” their representatives understood their views on firearms. After last year’s Parkland shooting, 71% of Americans supported stricter gun laws. Forty-two percent of Americans polled expressed that Congress should make gun legislation an immediate priority in the 116th session.

Gun safety was a key issue for many energized voters, especially youth, in the 2018 midterm elections.

The New York Times reports that in the summer of 2018, Parkland students helped spur a record number of young voter registrations nationwide, registering thousands at rallies. Additionally, the March for Our Lives campaign reported a 10% increase in youth voter turnout from 2014 to 2018. In Florida, The Guardian Reports that youth voter turnout jumped to a new high of 37%. For a slew of candidates running in the midterm elections gun control emerged as a major topic among their voters, and two dozen candidates who were resistant to stronger gun safety measures were defeated in November’s House midterms, The New York Times reports.  Notable victories for pro-gun control candidates in 2018 include Democratic Reps. Lucy McBath from Georgia and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.

The United States still leads the developed world in the number of gun-related deaths.

According to United Nations data, the U.S has nearly 16 times the gun homicide rate of Germany, seven times that of Sweden, and six times that of our neighbor, Canada. According to UNODC, the U.S. has recording almost 30 homicides per one million people. Where the U.S. drastically diverges from other nations though, is its prevalence of mass shootings and general gun ownership.  According to CNN, the U.S. population is only 5% of the total global population, yet constitutes 31% of all global mass shooters, and the U.S. population owns 42% of all the world’s privately held firearms.

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