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As Holiday Violence Looms, Reports Take Stock of America's Daily Toll

As Americans head into a holiday weekend marking the end of a turbulent summer, police in cities nationwide are bracing for a continuation of the gun violence that has plagued the country at elevated rates for the past two years.

In a package of stories meant to draw attention to everyday community violence, as opposed to the more sensational mass-shooting events that garner so much attention, the Associated Press report includes:

  • Results of a recent poll showing the vast numbers of people, particularly Black and Hispanic adults, whose lives have been touched by gun violence. The poll by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Police and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that about 20 percent of U.S. adults say they or someone close to them has had a personal experience with gun violence. The numbers were especially high for Black Americans (54 percent). Professor Jens Ludwig, who is director of the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab, said the 1 in 5 people with a friend or family member who was a victim of violence was a “strikingly high number.” It shows that those who experience gun violence “aren’t the only victims,” he said.

  • A new analysis showing how infrequently many U.S. states use the red-flag laws that are on their books. AP found such laws in 19 states and the District of Columbia were used to remove firearms from people 15,049 times since 2020, fewer than 10 per 100,000 adult residents. Experts called that woefully low and not nearly enough to make a dent in gun violence, considering the millions of firearms in circulation and countless potential warning signs law enforcement officers encounter from gun owners every day. “It’s too small a pebble to make a ripple,” Duke University psychologist Jeffrey Swanson, who has studied red flag gun surrender orders across the nation, said of the AP tally. “It’s as if the law doesn’t exist.”

  • A report on overall violence trends in major cities, where some have seen recent decreases but many continue to experience rates highly elevated from levels seen through 2019. While mass shootings, narrowly defined, make up about 1 percent of all gun homicides nationwide, everyday gun violence claims the vast majority of lives. “Those don’t tend to make news. They don’t tend to scare people because people say, ’Well, that’s not my family,” said James Fox, a professor at Northeastern University who has created a database of mass killings stretching back to 2006 with The Associated Press and USA Today. “We have as many as 20,000 gun homicides a year, and most of those are one victim. Sometimes two, sometimes three, (but) rarely four or more.”

The driving force is, of course, guns and how people misuse them. Eight million Americans became first-time gun owners between 2019 and 2021, said Jeffrey Butts, director of the research and evaluation center for the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York.

“We already had 400 million guns in circulation. So when you bump that up and include a lot of first-timers in the population, you get accidents, you get precipitous behavior, you get people reacting to small insults and conflicts with their guns because they’re in their pocket now,” he said.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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