GVPedia’s Letter to the Joint Economic Committee Members

I am writing to you today in response to yesterday’s Joint Economic Committee hearing, “Gun Violence in America: Understanding and Reducing the Costs of Firearm Injuries and Deaths.” I am the President and Founder of GVPedia, a non-profit providing access to gun violence prevention research.

I reviewed the written testimony of those who posted it online as well as the oral statements presented to the Committee, and would like to provide information I think you may find useful to correct the record on some of the statements made:

  1. While there is no legislative proposal in the US considering a complete gun ban, a talking point was raised that all the countries that have banned firearms have seen an increase in death rates, including island nations. This is inaccurate. Japan is the developed nation that has come closest to completely banning firearms, and it has seen its homicide rate fall more than 75 percent since it adopted its ban in 1958. Further, a 2013 study found that among developed nations, more guns per capita was associated with significantly higher rates of firearm deaths.
  2. Widespread defensive gun use (DGU) is a myth. The calculations used to make this claim are severely flawed and present crime prevention numbers that are mathematically impossible. In reality, defensive gun use is no more effective at preventing injury than taking no action at all during a crime.
  3. In July 2019, GVPedia’s own research, inspired by Dr. Louis Klarevas, discovered that the claim, which was presented at your hearing, that 98% of mass shootings occurred in gun-free zones was the result of a spreadsheet miscalculation by John Lott. Reputable research by Dr. Klarevas finds that 12% of high-fatality mass shootings from 1966 to 2015 occured in areas that ban firearms. The percentage of shootings that occur in gun-free zones has decreased over the intervening years. For example, the shootings in Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, El Paso, and Dayton all occurred in areas that allow firearms. Because of GVPedia’s research, in August 2019, Lott changed his 98% claim (including to fact checkers) to 94%. The new claim still suffers from a host of problems and misclassifies a significant number of mass shootings.
  4. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for all ages in the United States. Among those who attempt suicide, an estimated 96% fail. However, among those who attempt suicide with a firearm, 17.5% fail (a fatality rate of 82.5%). This is much more lethal than methods such as drug/poison ingestion or cutting, which have case fatality rates of 1.5% and 1.2%, respectively. Despite the fact that guns are one of the least used methods to attempt suicide, firearms account for more than half of completed suicides. The overwhelming majority of studies in the United States show that gun ownership is a strong risk factor for suicide, with gun owners at 2 to 10 times greater risk of suicide than non-gun owners.
  5. Background checks that deny a firearm purchase are overwhelmingly accurate. According to the September 2017 audit of the NICS Background Check system conducted by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), 99.8% of background check denials were accurate. This was in line with the FBI’s own quality control estimate of a 99.3–99.8% accuracy rate for 556,496 denied transactions from 2008 to 2014.

Thank you for holding this hearing. Gun violence is not a new problem in our country and will only continue to increase if nothing is done. I think we can all agree that this is not the legacy we want to leave our children.

I hope this information is useful to you as you continue to study gun violence. Please know that I and the resources housed by GVPedia are available to you at any time. I encourage you to visit our website, GVPedia.org or to reach out to me directly at devin@gvpedia.org. I stand ready to assist.


Devin Hughes

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