Worry and fear about gun violence are widespread in the United States, where most families have been affected by a gun-related incident, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Nearly 1 in 5 adults has had a family member killed by a gun, including in homicide and suicide. About as many adults have been personally threatened with a gun, and about 1 in 6 adults has witnessed an injury from a shooting, the survey found.
The new report comes less than a day after a shooting that claimed at least four lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Mass shootings have escalated in recent years, reaching a record pace in 2023. There have been at least 146 incidents so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, leaving more than 200 people dead and hundreds more injured.
About half of all gun-related deaths are suicides, federal data shows. And the suicide rate has also recently increased, reversing years of decline and returning to near-record levels.
These tragic trends are part of a gun epidemic that has become deadlier than ever in the US. There were nearly 49,000 gun-related deaths in 2021, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – an unprecedented surge of about 23% over two years during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The vast majority of adults say they worry at least sometimes that they or someone in their family will become a victim of gun violence, the new KFF survey found. Nearly a quarter of parents of children younger than 18 say they worry about it daily or almost daily.
Guns are now the leading cause of death among children and teens in the US, surpassing car accidents in 2020. In no other comparable country are firearms within the top four causes of mortality among children, according to another recent KFF analysis.
There are vast disparities in who’s dying from guns, too. A recent study found that the homicide rate among young Black men was nearly 10 times higher than the overall firearm death rate in the US in 2021.
According to the new KFF survey, Black adults are more than twice as likely as White adults to have lost a loved one to gun violence and to have personally witnessed someone being shot.
The weight of that disparity is felt heavily in the Black community. One in 6 Black adults say that they don’t feel at all safe in their neighborhoods, far higher than the share of White or Hispanic adults, according to the new KFF survey. About a third of both Black and Hispanic adults say they worry daily or almost daily that a family member will become a victim of gun violence, and about 1 in 5 say that gun-related crimes, injuries and deaths are a constant threat to their local community.
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Still, prevention measures are lacking.
About three-quarters of adults who have a gun in their home say it is stored in a way that bucks common gun-safety practices, such as in an unlocked location or already loaded, the new survey found. And only 5% of adults say that a health care professional has talked to them about gun safety.
The latest KFF survey is based on responses from a representative sample of about 1,300 adults that were collected in mid-March.