Pennsylvania suffers close to 1,500 gun deaths every year, whether by homicide, suicide or unintentional shootings. PA is one of a growing number of states where we have more gun deaths than deaths due to automobile accidents. This is striking, given that 90% of American household have access to a car, while just under 33% of American households have a gun. We should learn from our successful history of using regulation to make cars and driving safer, that regulation of firearms based on data and evidence can help save lives without unduly burdening the rights of law-abiding citizens.
In 2015, in PA, there were 1485 firearms deaths: 533 of which were homicides and 932 of which were suicides. These figures are fairly consistent with national figures: there are more than 20,000 suicides completed with firearms in the United States each year, accounting for ⅔ of all gun deaths in the United States as well as more than ½ of all suicides. Clearly, suicide represents a large part of our gun violence problem. It is not a separate problem, nor can it be ignored in the discussion of policies to prevent gun violence. Learn more about guns and suicide
Different demographics in PA experience gun violence and gun deaths differently. Of those 533 homicides, 446 victims were male and 370 victims were black. 350 of the 533 homicide victims were black males, representing 66%. By contrast, of the 932 suicides, 807 were males, and 872 were white. 757 of the 932 suicides were white males, representing 81%.
106 of the 1485 gun death victims were between the ages of 0 and 19. 39 of these deaths were suicide, and 66 were homicide. 52 of the 66 homicide victims were young black males.
White and black males in PA make up the largest portion of our PA gun deaths, but they experience gun violence — and the risk of gun death — in very different ways.
Pennsylvania has a gun violence problem. Pennsylvania also recognizes and protects the right to bear arms, more strongly than many other states. This has resulted in a regulatory system that does not require license or registration prior to purchase, has no waiting period prior to purchase, has no training requirement prior to purchase, does not limit the number of firearms or amount of ammunition an individual may purchase, allows open carry without a license (except in Philadelphia), provides a relatively permissive process for obtaining a concealed carry license, has no child access prevention laws, has no safe storage requirements, does not require an owner to report when his or her firearm is lost or stolen, and allows the private sale of long guns without a background check. The gaps in this system contribute to the level of gun violence and gun deaths PA experiences.
We can do something about this problem — it takes action and it takes political will. We hope you will join us in taking action and helping motivate our elected officials to have the will to turn that action into good policy.