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Letter from the NRCDVF Director on Gun Violence Solutions

Published by: David W. Keck, Project Director

Gun violence in America is a public health epidemic.

Gun deaths have eclipsed car accidents as the leading cause of death for Americans aged 19 and under*. These tragic deaths are predictable therefore they are preventable. 

Laws already exist that prohibit some individuals from having guns.  Most states have laws requiring prohibited individuals to relinquish their guns. These laws have lain dormant, as have many firearms restrictions throughout the country.  Most are capable of implementation without too much difficulty, although some challenges remain.        

At the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms, we believe that there are some simple steps Congress could make to begin reducing the incidence of gun violence in our country. Without creating any new prohibitions on guns, Congress could ensure that the laws already in place are effective.

First, universal background checks for all firearms transfers regardless of when or where the transfer takes place.  Background checks are intended to prevent the transfer of a firearm to anyone who is prohibited from possessing one. 

We advocate for the removal of firearms for two categories of prohibited individuals, both of them apply to domestic violence: protection orders and misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence.  These measures have been proven to significantly reduce the incidence of intimate partner homicide, with or without a gun.  More than half of the states already either mandate or authorize the removal of firearms from these individuals. Any exceptions would allow for a potential transfer of a firearm to someone who is prohibited. To allow even one transfer without proper inquiry is to potentially allow someone dangerous to have a firearm.  In other words, only prohibited persons benefit from exceptions to the background check requirement.

There appears to be a statistical link suggested by the data regarding domestic violence and mass shootings. That is, even though less than one percent of gun deaths occur in a mass shooting, over sixty percent of mass shootings have some link to domestic violence**. If one goal is a reduction in the incidence of mass shootings, then taking guns from domestic abusers would seem to be a logical first step. Congress could allocate funding to support states in the implementation of these laws as they were intended.

Funding would most likely be required for the implementation of universal background checks as well.  Background checks are only as helpful as the information they contain. Too many prohibited individuals continue to avoid the prohibition because a determination cannot be made in time.  This is particularly the case with domestic violence because state laws against domestic violence might not align with the federal standards. Uniformity on this and other state/federal law conflicts could also be addressed without further prohibitions being created.

These are just the first of many steps which could be taken nationally. States and local communities have many options, as well. 

To see the complete list of suggestions, or to find out about more promising practices, visit our website at:  preventdvgunviolence.org                  

*Violence Policy Center, April 2022       

**Geller, et al., Injury Epidemiology, May 2021                   

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