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Top Issue Tuesday - Gun violence epidemic

Contributed by Victoria Dinov, New Voters Communications Intern The gun violence epidemic in our communities is on the rise. According to the Giffords Law Center, 36,000 Americans are killed by guns each year, amounting to nearly 100 Americans per day. Gun deaths also increased from 2014 to 2017 by 16%.  With these statistics in mind, the youth have mobilized to combat gun violence and create comprehensive gun reform. Many youth-led organizations have formed to advocate for a safer future, pushing for stricter gun control, universal background checks and more.

Gun Violence Statistics

  1. One hundred Americans are killed with guns every day. This amounts to 36,000 people a year.

  2. Every year, one hundred thousand Americans are shot and injured.

  3. The United States accounts for 35% of global firearm suicides and 9% of global firearm homicides, despite accounting for a mere 4% of the world’s population. 

  4. The United States gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other high-income countries.

  5. American women are 21 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other high-income countries.

  6. Gun homicides have grown 30% since 2014.

  7. Children are affected, too, with 1,500 shot and killed each year

  8. Over the last 10 years, the United States experienced six of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in American history. 

  9. Gun violence costs the American economy $229 billion every year (including medical costs and impact on victim’s quality of life). This sharply contrasts with the revenue of the gun industry, which is only $28 billion. 

  10. Every day, 21 children and teens (ages 1-17) are shot in the United States. used.

Youth Care Many young people have experienced gun violence firsthand. As the rates of school mass shootings increase, students have become more aware of gun violence and the direct threat it poses to their safety. Many students have even reported a sense of anxiety when going to school in the aftermath of a school shooting (even if it wasn’t at their school). These statistics have brought about a sense of urgency that has turned into legislative and voting action.  When asked which two issues will most impact who they vote for, 16% of 18- to- 29-year-olds named “reducing crime and gun violence.” A Quinnipiac University Poll continued the trend, finding that support for universal background checks was almost unanimous among those surveyed, hovering around 97%. Respondents expressed similar sentiments in a poll of America’s 18- to- 29-year-old voters by the Harvard Public Opinion Project: 70% of young Americans likely to vote in the 2018 midterm elections believed that gun control laws in the United States should be more strict. The poll also reported that 58% of likely youth voters support a ban on assault weapons and 77% of likely young American voters said gun control was an important issue in determining their vote in 2018.  In response to the series of mass shootings that have swept our nation, young Americans have more actively mobilized against gun violence. This mobilization has come in the form of lobbying, marching, rallying, and fiercely advocating for stricter gun reform. Recently, Florida passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, the federal government banned bump stocks nationwide, and 11 states passed laws to restrict gun access to people linked to domestic violence cases. In the HPOP poll, 47% of youth voters reported that they believed that student-led protests and organizing related to the Parkland School Shooting will have a lasting impact on gun laws in the U.S. 

What Youth Voters Can Do The laws put in place today will set the standard for many years to come. If we do not combat the gun violence epidemic today, it might continue to escalate, and thousands more Americans might die as a result of our slow response. Voting for legislators that will make this issue a priority will create an atmosphere of change around the problem of gun violence in America today.

  Legislation Related to Gun Violence 1. Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019: The act would give the background check system more time to make a final determination on a potential firearms purchaser before the licensed dealer transfers the gun by extending the review period from three to 10 business days. After 10 days, the purchaser could request an expedited review, after which the FBI would have 10 more days from the petition date to complete the background check before the sale could be completed.  2. Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019: The act would create a program to give states grant money in order to implement extreme risk laws, which are laws that allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from or prohibit the purchase of guns by someone in a state of crisis. The law would provide funding for law enforcement training, judge and court personnel training, development and implementation of extreme risk laws, and increased public awareness and understanding of extreme risk laws.  3. Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019: This bill would create new background check requirements for firearm transfers between unlicensed individuals. It would specifically prohibit firearm transfers between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer or manufacturer conducted a background check first. 

Organizations Fighting Gun Violence 1. March for Our Lives: This group is a youth-led movement fighting to create a safer America. MFOL recently created a peace plan that is a comprehensive policy platform aiming to end the gun violence epidemic. The organization uses youth power to lobby, march, create policy reform, register voters, and hold special interest groups and lawmakers accountable.  2. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: This is a campaign that promotes a comprehensive approach to ending gun violence. It aims to expand background checks, outlaw weapons of war for civilians, fund CDC research and more in order to stop the rising rates of gun violence in our neighborhoods and cities.  3. Students Demand Action: formed two days after the Parkland shooting and acts as a gun safety advocacy group. The campaign’s local, student-led chapters across the country organize around gun legislation. They have recently started hosting voter registration drives to cultivate student leaders to work on gun reform in their own communities.

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