Washington, D.C. — Any discussion about gun violence in the United States cannot ignore the harsh reality of the violent epidemic: More than 300 Americans are shot every day with a firearm, 103 of them fatally. The toll of this violence on families and communities across the country is immeasurable and rightfully demands action from policymakers to prevent further acts of gun violence.
Far less discussed are the instances when a gun is used but never fired in the act of committing a crime. A new analysis from the Center for American Progress finds that between 2009 and 2018, more than 3.6 million violent crimes were perpetrated with a gun without gunfire, affecting more than 4 million victims. That means roughly 1,100 people survive the threat of gunfire by an armed perpetrator every day.
“Gun violence in this country is so much more than the shootings that make headlines. More than 1,100 people in this country are threatened with guns every day during assaults and robberies,” said Eugenio Weigend Vargas, associate director for Gun Violence Prevention at the Center for American Progress. “These incidents leave deep mental and emotional scars and deeply impact communities. This further supports the need for stronger gun laws.”
These incidents receive far less attention than crimes where a gun is fired, but the impact of these crimes should not be ignored. Victims of these crimes are often left to suffer in silence from emotional distress and psychological trauma. The psychological impact of being threatened with a gun can extend for months, even years, beyond the initial incident and disrupt every aspect of daily life. These victims often report higher levels of anger, anxiety, mistrust, and insecurity compared with victims of crimes where a gun wasn’t involved.
Gun-related threats during robberies and aggravated assaults also disproportionately affect communities of color, men, and younger Americans. Black victims present a rate of gun crimes that is more than double the rate of white victims. When compared with the national rate, Black males under the age of 30 are more than four times as likely to be threatened with a gun than the overall U.S. population.
In order to adequately and comprehensively address the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, these incidents must be part of the conversation. Neglecting to address the trauma associated with this form of gun violence does a disservice to the hundreds of victims each day who find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun.
Read the issue brief here: “No Shots Fired: Examining the Impact and Trauma Linked to the Threat of Gunfire Within the U.S.” by Eugenio Weigend and Rukmani Bhatia
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