What is the problem?
Unprecedented increases in gun sales, combined with economic distress and social isolation due to COVID-19, are intensifying the country’s gun violence crisis.
The United States has seen the collision of two major public health crises: COVID-19 and gun violence. While millions in the U.S. rushed out to purchase guns in the middle of a global pandemic, thinking they were buying safety, research shows that they were in fact exposing themselves to higher risks of gun violence. At the same time, structural inequities fueling community gun violence have been exacerbated. Moving forward, we must invest in policies that improve the plight of all Americans and save lives.
Why is it an issue?
The pandemic highlights the weaknesses in existing gun laws.
The pandemic highlights the deadliness of weak gun purchase and access laws that allow firearms to fall into the wrong hands and also sheds light on existing structural inequity. The coronavirus puts vulnerable populations, including women, children, and communities of color, at heightened risk. The lethal impact of these crises, though devastating, helps point the way to laws, policies, and programs that can keep people safe and healthy—now and on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic.
By the numbers
Unintentional shooting deaths by children increased by over 30 percent in March-May 2020, compared to the March-May average of the past three years.
Based on historical precedent, the U.S. risks losing 5,000 to 7,000 lives—about 20 more per day—to firearm suicide in 2020.
Black Americans are nearly twice as likely as white Americans to die from COVID-19 and more than four times as likely to die from gun homicide.
From March-May 2020, an estimated 5.9 million guns were sold, an 80 percent increase over the same time last year.
What are the solutions?
Close the Charleston Loophole
Under federal law, gun purchases may move forward by default after three business days—even if a background check has not been completed. While 90% of federal background checks are completed in minutes, those that take longer than three business days are four times as likely to be denied.
Secure Gun Storage
Gun owners can make their homes and communities safer by storing their guns securely. This means storing them locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. Securing firearms protects children and adults by preventing unintentional shootings and gun suicides.
Extreme Risk Laws
When a person is in crisis and considering harming themselves or others, family members and law enforcement are often the first people to see the warning signs. Extreme Risk laws, sometimes referred to as “Red Flag” laws, allow loved ones or law enforcement to intervene by petitioning a court for an order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing guns.
Prohibit People With Dangerous Histories From Having Guns
People with dangerous histories must be prohibited from having guns. Federal law prohibits gun possession by certain categories of people. States also set standards for who is too dangerous to have guns. People prohibited by federal or state law will fail a background check if they try to buy a gun from a licensed dealer.
Violence Intervention Programs
Violence intervention programs provide comprehensive support to individuals who are at greatest risk of gunshot victimization. These programs are shown to reduce gunshot woundings and deaths in the neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence.