In 2020, the most recent year with complete data available, 45,222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., according to the CDC — more than any other year on record. That year, the most common types of gun deaths were suicide (54%), and murder (43%).
And in recent years, there has been a disturbing increase in the number and frequency of mass shootings.
While still significantly below the gun death rates in some Latin American countries, the gun death rate in the U.S. is much higher than most other countries. In 2016, the gun death rate was 10.6 per 100,000 people — much higher than in countries like Canada (2.1 per 100,000), Australia (1.0), France (2.7), Germany (0.9), and Spain (0.6).
In the first five months of 2022, there were more incidents of gun violence in the U.S. than there were days of the year. As of May 26, 2022, the 146th day of the year, there have been 213 mass shootings in the U.S., according to Gun Violence Archive.
Gun violence is clearly an issue; and one that is uniquely American. It’s also an issue we can all take action to prevent.
From having conversations about safe storage with family members, to getting involved with gun violence prevention organizations, there are so many things we can each do to prevent gun violence, school shootings, suicide, and more. Here are some ways to do that:
You can take action to stop gun violence — here’s how:
Educate yourself on gun violence in America.
Everytown for Gun Safety is a leader in the gun violence prevention space. On their website, you can learn about the wide-ranging issues surrounding gun violence, particularly how a lack of accountability allows the gun industry to avoid responsibility for its role in gun violence.
Learn from other countries’ responses to mass shootings.
Contrary to popular talking points, America isn’t the greatest at everything! As we mentioned earlier, America’s record on gun violence and mass shootings doesn’t stack up well against most other countries — we have a lot to learn from them.
In March 1996, a shooter killed 16, 5- and 6-year-olds and their teacher at a primary school in Scotland. Immediately after, U.K. lawmakers (not even just in Scotland) took decisive legislative action banning private ownership of most handguns, including a ban on semi-automatic weapons, and mandatory registration for shotgun owners. Since then, the U.K. has seen one mass shooting in 2010, and zero school shootings.
In April 1996 in Australia, an active shooter killed 35 people and wounded 23 more in what became the worst mass shooting in the country’s history. Shortly after, the Australian government introduced the National Firearms Agreement, which outlawed automatic and semi-automatic rifles, as well as pump-action shotguns. It also held a nationwide gun buyback program which resulted in more than 640,000 weapons turned in to authorities. The country hasn’t had a mass shooting since.
Following the 2019 mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, within days lawmakers banned “military-style” guns, and even gun retailers expressed their support for the ban, saying the “weapons of war have no place in our business — or our country.”
Read ‘A Kids Book About School Shootings’ by Crystal Woodman Miller.
Whether you’re a kid, have a kid, are an educator, or just an adult wanting to learn and do better — we could all benefit from reading A Kids Book About School Shootings by Crystal Woodman Miller.
Host an educational event in your community.
Ask your church, community center, or professional network to host an educational event about the impact of gun violence in America.
A great resource to get you started is Perceptions, a film and discussion series that confronts the complex social, political, and economic issues contributing to gun violence in the U.S.
Learn more about gun violence and mental health.
A notorious talking point following any mass gun violence event is the issue of mental health. Oftentimes, these talking points claim that violence is a byproduct of mental health issues, which is a common misconception.
According to Mental Health America, mental illness is not a predictor of violence towards others, but rather a predictor of suicide. Americans do face a truly heartbreaking reality about firearm deaths due to mental illness, but not in the ways we often see discussed by politicians.
In 2017, 60% of gun-related deaths in America were suicides (23,854) while 37% were murders (14,542). Gun safety laws support mental health care, and vice versa.
Call your senators and members of congress.
As elected officials in a representative democracy, your elected officials have the responsibility to use their time to introduce policies and laws that reflect the desires of their constituents. And around 90% of American citizens want to see, among other policies, universal background checks passed at the federal level.
While they’ve already been passed in the House, the Senate now has the opportunity to pass two resolutions to expand background checks on all gun sales: H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021.
Here’s a really simple, straightforward way to ask:
“Hello Senator ________, My name is ________ and I am your constituent in ______________. I strongly encourage you to bring H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 up for a vote in the senate, and cast a supporting vote to swiftly pass both of these acts. Thank you for your work in representing me and all members of our state.”
And even if you believe your elected officials already agree with you, contact them anyway. Tell them you’re grateful for what they’re doing, to remind their colleagues that may not support the bills of the wide bipartisan support they have, and remind them of the gun responsibility policies you want them to keep fighting for.
Call your governor and state leaders.
While there’s been a disturbing lack of action on gun safety policies at the federal level, there’s actually been an encouraging amount of progress on the local and state level.
Recently, a community in New York passed an ordinance requiring gun dealers to post signage with specific language about the public health risks associated with access to unsecured firearms; Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker just signed a law to ensure that all firearms, including ghost guns, have serial numbers, which would better allow law enforcement to trace firearms used in crimes; and more.
State and local governments have the ability to pass a lot of the same policies — background checks on all gun sales, secure storage laws, red flag laws, and more — as the federal government does, but sometimes issues are more easily addressed on a local level.
Contact your state and local representatives to make your voice heard: Ask them to write, introduce, and pass laws that make it less easy to access firearms — while making it much safer for the community.
Once you’ve encouraged your elected officials to make gun safety a part of their policymaking and policy platform, monitor how they write, co-author, and vote on legislation — at the local, state, and federal level.
If your current elected official won’t support gun safety policies that encourage responsible gun ownership, when they’re up for re-election — vote for the candidate that will.
Hold the gun industry accountable.
Holding industries accountable has been a key part of preventing and limiting the impacts of public health crises — we’ve seen this done with the tobacco industry.
To truly address gun violence in the U.S., it’s important to acknowledge the gun industry's role in manufacturing, selling, and marketing their products — and hold them to account for the harm they’ve caused Americans.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act shields the gun industry from nearly all civil liability for the dangers their products pose.
Contact your elected representatives and ask them to introduce stronger policy and increased funding to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — the federal agency responsible for regulating the gun industry.
Download the ‘Demand Action’ app.
Whether you have a little bit of time, or a lot of time, you can use Moms Demand Action’s ‘Demand Action’ app to work towards ending gun violence right now. With the app, you can connect with other concerned citizens in your area, track upcoming tasks and events, celebrate progress, and more.
Join a protest.
The amazing March For Our Lives activists who first mobilized after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018 are taking to the streets once again.
On June 11, they will be leading a march in Washington DC, as well as a number of other U.S. cities. Visit their website to learn more, RSVP for a march, make a donation to fuel their mission, or find a march near you.
Wear orange on June 3rd—5th.
In January 2013, Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed on a playground in Chicago. Soon after, Hadiya’s friends commemorated her life by wearing orange, the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others.
Wear Orange is now observed every June and thousands of people around the country wear orange to honor Hadiya and the more than 40,000 people who are killed with guns and approximately 85,000 who are shot and wounded every year.
In 2022, National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Wear Orange Weekend is Friday, June 3 through Sunday, June 5. Wear orange those days to raise awareness and honor survivors of gun violence.
Donate your gun to be decommissioned and repurposed.
A decommissioned gun is a gun that has been permanently changed so it can never fire again.
RAWtools is a nonprofit that decommissions guns, and repurposes them to make garden tools. Their mission is to “disarm hearts and forge peace,” which is driven “by our ability to make a choice about the tools we use to navigate conflict.”
They have a network of blacksmiths and pastors who are trained to decommission guns, which they then repurpose to make new, “life-giving” garden tools.
Those tools are then either given to a victim of gun violence or sold on their website, with proceeds benefiting groups working to prevent suicide and gun violence, their nonprofit organization, and their blacksmiths.
Encourage your local police department to host a gun amnesty or buyback event.
Around the country, police departments will occasionally host gun amnesty events, where community members can drop off guns, ammo, and fireworks, with no questions asked. These events help get unwanted guns and other dangerous items off the streets — safely and anonymously.
Additionally, some departments and organizations offer gun buyback programs, awarding community members financially for disposing of their firearms safely. Organization Gun By Gun encourages and facilitates these events, offering folks a chance to make a difference without waiting for political action.
Donate to Moms Demand Action.
Moms Demand Action is leading the fight against gun violence, and they need our support to keep up the good work. The nonpartisan nonprofit has more than 8 million supporters, chapters in every state, and are ready to hold elected officials accountable.
Their network of volunteers and advocates have helped pass background check laws in 21 states, laws that disarm domestic abusers in 29 states, laws that close the “Charleston loophole” (which allows gun dealers to sell guns without a background check, in cases where the FBI doesn’t complete a buyer’s background check within three days) in 19 states, and red flag laws in 19 states.
If you’d like to be even more encouraged by the progress they have made, look through Moms Demand Action’s timeline of victories.
Donate to support their revolutionary work.
Donate to March For Our Lives.
Four years ago, on February 14, 2018, a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took the lives of 17 people and injured 17 more.
Students were quick to mobilize and demand action from elected officials, organizing an official nonprofit: March For Our Lives (MFOL). Founders include students like X González, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, Jackie Corin, and now, hundreds of local MFOL chapters have emerged, fighting to end the gun violence epidemic in America.
The goal: Stop school shootings and all gun violence in America. Through grassroots organizing, judicial advocacy, and the mobilization of youth activists, leaders at MFOL have seen their work materialize with unprecedented success in gun safety legislation.
Clearly and tragically, their work continues. Donate to support their ongoing mission to end gun violence.
Donate to elected officials with a plan to deal with gun violence.
Just like you need to vote for elected officials with a plan to deal with gun violence, you need to support their campaigns to get them on the ballot!
The good news is, Gun Sense Voter has taken the guesswork out of the picture and has compiled a list of candidates who support common-sense gun safety legislation. Search by state, office, or candidate name to find someone to support.
Donate to a mass shooting and trauma support group.
Formed by a group of Columbine survivors after the Aurora theater shooting in 2012, The Rebels Project is a nonprofit that supports and connects survivors of mass tragedy and trauma.
By offering a safe environment to share resources, experiences, and education, their work empowers survivors to find healing after gun violence.
Donate to support the victims of gun violence.
We dream of a day where there are no longer daily victims of gun violence — but until then, people need our help. As we work to eliminate the systemic issues that lead to people losing their lives, may we not forget those directly affected.
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