Gun violence is a public health epidemic. Each year, more than 33,000 Americans die in suicides, homicides, and unintentional shootings. More than two and a half times that number are injured. America’s gun death rate is unacceptably high and far above other Western industrialized nations.
Our nation’s gun violence epidemic is linked to the easy availability of firearms and weak gun violence prevention laws. This correlation also holds at the state level: An annual VPC analysis shows that states with higher rates of gun ownership and weaker gun violence prevention laws have the highest gun death rates in the country. Conversely, states with stronger gun violence prevention laws and lower rates of gun ownership have the lowest gun death rates in the country.
VPC research finds that in 2014, gun deaths even outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline thanks to proven public-health based injury prevention strategies informed by consumer product safety regulation standards designed to reduce death and injury.
To reduce the toll of gun violence in America, a similar public health approach is urgently needed. Today, guns are the only consumer products in the United States that do not have to meet federal health and safety standards. The federal government should regulate firearms for health and safety just like any other consumer product.
The VPC produces annual publications on many aspects of the gun violence epidemic, its impact on specific populations, and how to reduce gun violence.
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Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren