Gun Violence

Gun violence

APA advocates for a public health approach to gun violence prevention, supporting evidence-based programs and policies that can reduce the occurrence and impact of firearm-related violence in the United States.

Tell Congress to support a public health approach to gun violence prevention.

APA's Recommendations to Prevent Gun Violence

School Violence Prevention

Improve and Expand School-based Violence Prevention Efforts

  • Implement evidence-based school violence prevention protocols.
  • Foster positive and safe school climate.
  • Facilitate program implementation through training and research.
  • Utilize threat assessment strategies.
Enhance access

Enhance Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Services

  • Provide broader access to health care under Medicaid.
  • Promote integrated health care.
Enhance knowledge

Support Research and Evidence-based Public Policies on Violence

  • Increase funding for the National Violent Death Reporting System to support nationwide expansion.
  • Fund scientific research across federal agencies into the causes and prevention of violence.
  • Establish a federal advisory panel to ensure that existing scientific evidence is used to inform policy.
Community

Make Communities Safer

  • Support policies that reduce access to firearms by youth and individuals who are at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • Create community-based threat assessment processes in coordination with school and workplace teams.
  • Institute public health campaigns to encourage help-seeking by people in distress.
  • Intervene with at-risk families.
  • Encourage safe storage of firearms in the home.
Candles at a vigil ceremony

Resources

Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention, and Policy
APA Report

Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention and Policy

Research-based conclusions and recommendations (and to identify gaps in such knowledge) on how to reduce the incidence of gun violence nationwide.
handgun
APA Policy

APA Resolution on Gun Violence Prevention

This resolution encourages the scientific study of firearm violence and its prevention and psychologists to respond to the problem of firearm violence.
What Can You Do?
Help Center

Coping in the Aftermath of Violence, Recognizing Warning Signs and More

Understanding the research to reduce gun violence and how to get help.

Take Action Now

APA Action on Gun Violence Prevention

April 2018

APA Co-sponsors Briefing with the American Public Health Association on a Public Health Approach to Gun Violence Prevention

Robert Kinscherff, PhD, APA fellow and chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, was invited to participate on a panel of fellow public health experts. The congressional briefing also featured George Benjamin, PhD, executive director of American Public Health Association; David Hemenway, PhD, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center; and Nancy Lavigne, vice president, Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. The panel explored how federally funded research can prevent gun violence.

April 2018

Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology takes to Capitol Hill to Discuss Gun Violence Prevention

On April 17, 2018, 40 members of the Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology attended an advocacy training in the Spire Conference Center and headed to Capitol Hill to advocate for dedicated research funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct gun violence research. Participants visited their congressional representatives’ office and met with their member of Congress or a staff member. Their request received a warm reception in many offices, and is being considered for fiscal year 2019 appropriations.

April 2018

APA CEO Co-authors Op-ed on Gun Violence and Public Health

Arthur C. Evans, PhD, APA CEO and Clarence E. Anthony, CEO of the National League of Cities wrote an article that appeared in The Hill on April 6, 2018.

"Gun violence costs our economy billions of dollars each year, and takes a dramatic and long-term toll on families across America," they wrote. "But, due to federal restrictions, there aren’t many more national statistics or trends we can examine." 

March 2018

APA Urges Congress to take Public Health Approach to Gun Violence Prevention

On March 15, 2018, APA leadership sent a letter (PDF, 88KB) asking congressional leadership to take a public health approach to prevent gun violence. Specifically, APA called on Congress to:

  • Adopt common sense restrictions on access to guns.
  • Invest in greater support for individuals in crisis.
  • Increase funding for gun violence research.
  • Support school, family and community-based prevention efforts.

These policy proposals represent approaches supported by the strongest body of evidence. In an attachment (PDF, 164KB) to the letter, APA shared specific recommendations for legislation.

March 2018

APA Collaborates with March for Science on Gun Violence Research Letter to Congress

APA collaborated with the March for Science to craft the 2018 open letter to Congress highlighting the need for more federally-funded gun violence research. The letter also urges policymakers to approve the funding and support needed for gun violence prevention research and to employ evidence-based approaches in policy proposals to address the public health crisis of gun violence.

March 2018

APA Supported the March for Our Lives

The tragic events of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Parkland, Florida brought renewed public attention to the gun violence epidemic in America. On March 24, 2018, APA members came together in Washington, D.C. and around the globe to support the March for Our Lives. Psychologists have a unique and much needed perspective to add to the gun violence discussion.

February 2018

Groups Urge Policymakers to Find Bipartisan Solution to Gun Violence

APA joined 75 national medical, health, public health and research organizations in a letter to the House (PDF, 260KB) and Senate (PDF, 258KB ) policymakers urging bipartisan “comprehensive legislative solutions to firearm-related injuries and fatalities.” The letter specifically expresses the critical need to “address gun violence as the significant public health threat that it is so that we can enact policies that significantly reduce firearm-related morbidity and mortality…Federal policy should address gun violence with the same dedication applied to other successful public health initiatives over the past 25 years, such as immunizations, public sanitation, and motor vehicle safety.” It also emphasizes the need to use “research and evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies” to reduce gun-related injury and mortality.


February 2018

APA Supports Call to Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the U.S.

APA also joined the Interdisciplinary Group on Preventing School and Community Violence organizations in their Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the United States of America (PDF, 165KB). The Interdisciplinary Group consists of prominent experts in violence prevention.

The call presents three levels of prevention, "(1)universal approaches promoting safety and well-being for everyone; (2) practices for reducing risk and promoting protective factors for persons experiencing difficulties; and (3) interventions for individuals where violence is present or appears imminent."

February 2018

APA President Sends a Letter to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

APA President Jessica Henderson Daniel, PhD, sent a letter to the principal, students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School offering support, resources and a connection to our colleagues at the Florida Psychological Association, who have been involved extensively on the ground in Florida. 

In response to President Trump’s suggestion that the shooter was motivated by mental illness, Daniel issued a statement warning that placing the blame entirely on mental illness “does not direct us to appropriate solutions to this public health crisis.”

October 2017

Energy and Commerce Democrats invite APA member to Discuss Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue

Susan Sorenson, PhD, represented APA at an Oct. 26 forum held by the Committee on Energy and Commerce Democrats on gun violence as a public health issue. Held in the members room of the Library of Congress, committee members heard from public health experts on approaches to prevent gun violence and the role federally funded research must play in America’s response to the gun violence epidemic. Panelists included public health experts in pediatrics, emergency medicine and domestic violence. Sorenson’s remarks focused on the prevalence of firearm suicides and the use of firearms as a means of control in domestic violence

October 2017

Testimony at Panel "Rethinking Guns and Mental Illness"

APA Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer Amalia Corby participated in an Oct. 23 panel discussion sponsored by U.S. Senator Al Franken and U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano that brought together advocates from the mental health community and experts in violence prevention research to discuss messaging about gun violence in a way that does not stigmatize individuals with mental illness. Corby presented information from the APA report Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention, and Policy and discussed how individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence. Panelists weighed legislative options for empowering loved ones and law enforcement officers to temporarily remove firearms from individuals in crisis.

August 2016

APA Staff Discuss the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Gun Violence

APA senior legislative and federal affairs officer Amalia Corby discussed the potential of federal legislation to impact domestic violence and gun violence at APA’s 2016 Convention in Denver, with Clinton Anderson, PhD, Robert Kinscherff, PhD, Rita Smith, and April Zeoli, PhD. Panelists discussed the intersection of different types of violence and presented an analysis of the impact of state polices on domestic violence and gun violence prevention efforts. The symposium aimed to educate attendees and to present opportunities for engagement in advocacy. This discussion was an extension of APA’s continued efforts to reduce violence using a public health approach.

July 2016

APA Submits Comments on Social Security Administration’s Proposed Firearm Regulations

On July 5, 2016, APA provided comments in a letter (PDF, 159KB) to the Social Security Administration (SSA) on the proposed regulation “Implementation of the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007” (Docket No. SSA-2016-0011). The regulation is SSA’s response to address a provision in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Improvement Amendments Act requiring inclusion of certain individuals in the system. 

APA voiced concerns with the proposed regulation, noting that it unfairly singles out social security recipients with severe mental illness (SMI). Language included in this proposed regulation, such as “mental defective, subnormal intelligence,” runs the risk of stigmatizing individuals with a mental health diagnosis. Therefore, APA encouraged SSA to revise this language to be more scientific.

April 2016

Coalition of National Health Groups Call for End to Ban on Federal Gun Violence Prevention Research

APA signed on to an April 6, 2016, letter (PDF, 100KB), calling on Congress to end to the effective ban on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gun violence research and fund this lifesaving work. For the past 20 years, language attached to the government's annual spending bills has prevented the CDC from carrying out research that could be perceived as advocating for gun control. This language has had a chilling effect, essentially preventing any public health research in this area. Over 100 public health and medical organizations joined the effort, which coincided with National Public Health Week.

September 2014

APA Applauds Efforts to Bolster Mental Health Systems' Response to Violence

APA sent a Sept. 16, 2014, letter (PDF, 29KB) to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., supporting his efforts to improve the mental health systems' response to violent incidents with his introduction of the Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act (S. 2872). Among many provisions, the bill seeks to support individuals in crisis and to affirm the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to carry out gun violence prevention research. APA maintains a strong commitment to gun violence prevention and violence prevention research. For more information on APA's approach to preventing gun violence, see the 2013 report “Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention and Policy.”

May 2014

APA Applauds Efforts Around Bill to Address Response to Violence and Federal Gun Violence Prevention Research

APA sent a May 28, 2014, letter (PDF, 119KB) to Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., commending their efforts around introduction of the Promoting Healthy Minds for Healthy Communities Act (H.R. 4783). This legislation seeks to improve the law enforcement and mental health system response to violent incidents and to affirm the authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to carry out gun violence prevention research. APA consulted with these offices during drafting of the bill and will continue to advocate for sound policies based on the best available science.

May 2014

APA Participates in Press Conference Introducing New Legislation

On May 21, 2014, Clinton Anderson, PhD, associate executive director for APA’s Public Interest Directorate, delivered remarks (PDF, 39KB) at a press conference to introduce federal legislation to fund gun violence prevention research. The bill, a collaboration by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., seeks an additional $10 million each year for six years for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate gun violence prevention and firearm safety. Anderson’s remarks: 

  • Supported the introduction of the bill.
  • Discussed the resolution recently adopted by APA and authored by its Policy Review Task Force on the Prediction and Prevention of Gun Violence.
  • Gave an overview of important gun violence facts in America.
  • Discussed potential public health solutions for the nation’s gun violence epidemic.
2013

APA CEO Invited to White House, APA Issues Gun Violence Report

The White House invited Norman B. Anderson, PhD, then-CEO of APA, to a Jan. 9, 2013, meeting for APA to provide input on violence prevention proposals. Anderson also cited the need to fully implement all the mental health provisions in the Affordable Care Act., emphasizing that mental health care should not be “optional” in any health plan.

In December of 2013, APA released a comprehensive report on gun violence, "Gun Violence: Prediction, Prevention and Policy." The report summarizes the psychological research that has helped develop evidence-based programs that can prevent violence through both primary and secondary interventions. Behavioral threat assessment was identified as an effective prevention strategy.

Every day in the United States, about 30 people die of homicides and 53 persons die of suicides committed by using someone using a gun.

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Amalia Corby
Senior Legislative Affairs Officer, APA Public Interest Government Relations

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APA represents the largest and most visible national presence advocating for psychology at the federal level. There are three APA government relations offices and two APA-affiliated organizations that engage in government relations activities. 

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