Gun Violence: Facts and Statistics

According to the scientific literature, American children face a substantial risk of exposure to firearm injury and death. Following are additional relevant gun violence facts:

In the Home

In 2018, 4,775 young people ages 10-24 were victims of homicide - an average of 13 each day.

  • According to a 2019 study, gun injuries are the second-leading cause of death among U.S. children and teens and the leading cause of death of among high school students.
  • There are more than 393 million guns in circulation in the United States — approximately 120.5 guns for every 100 people.
  • 1.7 million children live with unlocked, loaded guns - 1 out of 3 homes with kids have guns.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, more than 15,000 children (ages 19 and under) died due to firearms, and at least 13,000 sustained unintentional firearm-related injury or death
  • An emergency department visit for non-fatal assault injury places a youth at 40% higher risk for subsequent firearm injury.
  • People that die from accidental shooting were more than three times as likely to live in a home with a firearm
  • Among younger children (ages 0-12 years) who are killed by a firearm, 85% are killed in their own home
  • People who report “firearm access” are at twice the risk of homicide and more than three times the risk of suicide compared to those who do not own or have access to firearms.
  • Suicide rates are much higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership, even after controlling for differences among states for poverty, urbanization, unemployment, mental illness, and alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Among suicide victims requiring hospital treatment, suicide attempts with a firearm are much more deadly than attempts by jumping or drug poisoning — 90% die compared to 34% and 2% respectively. About 90% of those that survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide.
  • States implementing universal background checks and mandatory waiting periods prior to the purchase of a firearm have lower rates of suicides than states without this legislation. To read more about suicide and firearms, click here.
  • In states with increased gun availability, there were higher rates of child deaths due to firearms.
  • The vast majority of accidental firearm deaths among children are related to child access to firearms — either self-inflicted or at the hands of another child.
  • Studies have shown that states with Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws have a lower rate of unintentional death than states without CAP laws.
  • Domestic violence is more likely to turn deadly with a gun in the home. An abusive partner’s access to a firearm increases the risk of homicide eight-fold for women in physically abusive relationships. Read more about the impact of child exposure to domestic violence.
Safe Storage of Guns in the Home
  • The U.S. General Accounting Office estimated that 31% of accidental deaths caused by firearms might be prevented with the addition of two devices: a child-proof safety lock and a loading indicator.
  • Approximately one in three guns in homes with children is kept loaded and unlocked.
  • Most parents don’t think their child knows where their gun is stored, but when researchers ask children directly, 40% of these same children are able to correctly identify the location of the gun. Parents also often incorrectly believe their child has never handled their gun, when in reality, 36% of children say they have.
  • More than 80% of guns used by youth in suicide attempts were kept in the home of the victim, a relative, or a friend.
  • Gun owners in a household are more likely to report that their gun is stored unlocked and loaded, compared to the non-owners in those households. This suggests a need for better education of household members regarding safe storage in homes with children.
Assault-style Weapons
  • These weapons are responsible for a minority of gun deaths in the US, but have become the weapon of choice for the assailant whose intent is chaos and casualties.
  • In a December 2020 review of mass shootings in the U.S., 118 mass shootings have occurred since 1982, from which approximately 83 semi-automatic handguns and 94 assault weapons and weapons with high magazine capacity were recovered.
  • On May 18, 2018, a teen shooter used a shotgun and a .38-caliber revolver that he took from his father to kill 10 people and wound 10 others at Santa Fe High School in Texas; this marked the 1,686th mass shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
  • In 2017 alone, 11 mass shootings in the US caused 117 fatalities and 587 injuries occurring in concert, religious, workplace, airport, and shopping venues and in the community.
  • At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in 2012, Adam Lanza reportedly fired more than 150 shots in less than five minutes from his assault-style rifle with a high capacity magazine.
  • On June 12, 2016 at Pulse Nightclub, a single shooter killed 49 people and injured 53. It was the worst mass shooting in US history until the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017 took 58 lives and left 546 injured. 
  • In February 2018, a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL left 17 people dead and 14 wounded. The teen shooter used an AR-15 semi-automatic style weapon, the same weapon used during the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
  • States that restrict assault weapons also have the lowest per capita homicide rates. However, because guns are easily trafficked in interstate and international commerce, federal rules are needed.
  • Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated that from 1982 to 2011, mass shootings occurred every 200 days on average. From late 2011 to 2014, they found mass shootings had occurred at triple that rate—every 64 days on average.
Gun Violence Injury Prevention Research
  • Federal legislation passed in 1997 stated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The vague nature of this law, and its 2011 extension to the National Institutes of Health, has effectively prevented federal funding for firearms-related research.
  • In 2013, following the Sandy Hook shooting, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order calling for the CDC to “conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it”. Despite this and without specific appropriations from U.S. Congress, new research proposals remain unfunded.
  • After the federal legislation preventing firearm research, there were 25% fewer publications on firearms compared to what would have been expected relative to other causes of death in children.
  • In March 2018, a new spending bill clarified that the CDC can conduct research into gun violence but did not allocate specific funding toward this effort.
  • In 2019, Congress specifically allocated funds to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for firearm research for the first time in more than 20 years.
Pennsylvania-specific Gun Violence
  • According to the CDC, there were 1,636 firearm fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2017.
  • From 2008-2017, a gun homicide occurred every 17 hours in Pennsylvania.
  • In 2018, there were 1,757 firearm related injuries in Pennsylvania; almost half of these were in persons under 25 years old. More than half (913) of all firearm related injuries in Pennsylvania occurred in Philadelphia County. The firearm mortality rate for Pennsylvania is 12 per 100,000 people, slightly higher than the national average and higher than any of our neighboring states.
  • In Pennsylvania, suicide and homicide accounts for over 98% of all firearm-related deaths according to data collected from 2013-2017.
  • Self-injury of Pennsylvanians by firearm is fatal 91% of the time, compared to hanging and poisonings which are fatal 79% and 3% of the time, respectively.

Read more about the issue and about public health approaches to gun violence on the Research in Action Blog.

Updated December 2020

There are numerous sources for the gun violence facts and statistics listed above including databases from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Mother Jones; research reports from Congressional Research Service, US General Accounting Office, Brady Campaign, and Every Town for Gun Safety; and many peer-reviewed journal articles. This page was reviewed by physician-scientists from the Center for Violence Prevention. If you would like to request a specific citation on gun violence, please use the website’s Contact Us form.