What Is The Problem?
Gun violence affects every person in America, but the weight of this crisis is not felt equally across demographic groups.
Inequities in systems such as those in our justice, health, housing, and education institutions, along with generations of discrimination and disinvestment in certain communities, have exacerbated the gun violence crisis in a way that disproportionately impacts historically marginalized communities, including racial and ethnic groups, women, and LGBTQ+ people.
Why is it an issue?
Gun violence both reflects and worsens these inequities.
Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people experience higher rates of gun homicides overall and fatal shootings by police1CDC, WONDER, Underlying Cause of Death, 2018–2021. See also, mappingpoliceviolence.org. than their white peers do. Gun homicides perpetrated by intimate partners disproportionately impact women, particularly Indigenous, Black, and Latina women.
Although research on the intersection of gun violence and LGBTQ+ people is limited, surveys show that, compared to their straight peers, LGBTQ+ people are at higher risk for suicide and intimate partner violence. And Everytown’s tracking of homicides of transgender and gender nonconforming people in the United States and Puerto Rico shows that the overwhelming majority of these homicides are committed with a gun, and the victims of these shootings are disproportionately Black trans women.
Structural disadvantages in marginalized communities are exacerbated by generations of systemic racism, discriminatory policies, and patterns of police violence, which dramatically reduce public confidence in government institutions and law enforcement. This distrust can make community members less likely to report victimization, which can hamper efforts to solve crimes, create barriers to accessing services—including victim compensation—and perpetuate cycles of violence.
Gun violence has a devastating impact on individual victims, and entire groups and communities experience the reverberating effects. News of a violent crime targeting members of a shared identity group can feel like a personal attack. Following the racially motivated mass shooting in 2022 by a white supremacist at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, members of Black communities across the country faced the profound trauma that accompanies such horrific acts of targeted mass violence. Research has also found that people have reported experiencing higher levels of emotional distress and stated that they would be less likely to attend safe spaces—like LGBTQ+ nightclubs—after mass shootings that have victimized people of their shared identities.2Julie M. Croff, “Hidden Rainbows: Gay Bars as Safe Havens in a Socially Conservative Area since the Pulse Nightclub Massacre,” Sexuality Research and Social Policy 14 (2017): 233–40, https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-017-0273-1; Skyler D. Jackson, “‘Connection Is the Antidote’: Psychological Distress, Emotional Processing, and Virtual Community Building among LGBTQ Students after the Orlando Shooting,” Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity 4, no. 2 (2017): 160–68, https://doi.apa.org/doi/10.1037/sgd0000229; Menachem Ben-Ezra et al., “Shattering Core Beliefs: Psychological Reactions to Mass Shooting in Orlando,” Journal of Psychiatric Research 85 (2017): 56–58, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.09.033; Christopher B. Stults et al., “Perceptions of Safety among LGBTQ People following the 2016 Pulse Nightclub Shooting,” Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity 4, no. 3 (2017): 251–56, https://doi.apa.org/doi/10.1037/sgd0000240. When safe spaces no longer feel safe, entire communities suffer.
Understanding how gun violence affects historically marginalized communities is critical to developing data-driven and culturally competent interventions and policy solutions, such as community violence intervention programs. It also helps ensure that people and communities receive the resources needed to prevent violence, manage the trauma that can follow violence, and heal. For decades, members of these communities have come together to reduce violence and increase safety. But lawmakers need to do their part. They must prioritize community- and evidence-based solutions to gun violence, assess the disproportionate impacts, and develop policies to ensure accountability for police violence and ultimately end it. Survivors and advocates from marginalized communities must be an integral part of this process.
By the numbers
Black people are 12 times more likely than white people to die by gun homicide.
American Indian/Alaskan Native women are three times more likely than white women to be fatally shot by an intimate partner.
67 percent of known trans homicide victims who were killed with a gun were Black women.
Police are twice as likely to threaten or use physical force during encounters with Latinx people than with white people.
What are the solutions?
Violence Intervention Programs
Violence intervention programs provide evidence and community-informed, 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.
Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Assistance Funding
Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance funds are federal funds that can be used to support services for victims and survivors of gun violence. Many of the services eligible for VOCA victim assistance funds are already being provided by gun violence intervention programs, such as street outreach and hospital-based violence intervention programs. VOCA victim assistance grants should be used to help reduce gun violence and support gun violence survivors.
Repeal Shoot First Laws
Shoot First, also known as Stand Your Ground, laws allow people to shoot to kill in public even when they can safely walk away from the danger. These laws threaten public safety by encouraging armed vigilantism. They allow a person to kill another person in a public area even when there are clear and safe ways to retreat from a dangerous situation.
Guns and hate are a fatal combination. In an average year, more than 25,000 hate crimes in the United States involve a firearm—more than 69 each day. In most of the US, some people convicted of hate crimes can still legally buy and have guns. Congress and state legislatures must pass laws that keep guns out of the hands of those who have been convicted of hate crimes.
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.
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.