Guns as a public health threat

Below are five charts documenting the rise of gun violence as a public health threat, how Americans feel about the threat of guns, and how gun control may factor into the 2024 presidential race.

The author(s)
  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
  • Bernard Mendez Data Journalist
  • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
Get in touch

Earlier this month, after experiencing a set of rare, back-to-back mass shootings, authorities in Serbia moved quickly to announce “an almost complete disarming of Serbia,” which included mass gun surrendering, tighter restrictions on gun ownership, and harsher penalties for illegal gun ownership.

Gun control measures move much slower in the U.S., a country that stands out as a global outlier when it comes to gun violence and mass shootings. Amid the persistent rise of gun violence as a cause of death in the U.S., Americans have taken note of the sluggishness of anti-gun violence legislation.

Below are five charts documenting the rise of gun violence as a public health threat, how Americans feel about the threat of guns, and how gun control may factor into the 2024 presidential race.

  1. Re-emerging threat. Before 2022, it had been 30 years since federal gun regulation last became law. Since then, firearms have reemerged as a growing cause of death among Americans, with firearm suicides and homicides climbing to historic levels in 2021. It’s too early to tell if President Biden’s 2022 gun legislation will affect the level of gun violence in America. But the persistence of gun violence this year suggests gun violence remains a public health threat.Gun deaths over time
  2. Americans have noticed. Along with opioids and fentanyl, access to guns became the top public health concern in our latest polling with Axios. More Americans now than earlier this year feel access to guns or firearms is the number one threat to public health, rising after several mass shootings so far this year.Guns as a top health concern
  3. Two Americas. Not everyone views guns as a public health threat, though. Partisanship and race and ethnicity produce the widest differences in opinion here. White Americans and Republicans are less likely than Democrats and Black and Hispanic Americans, respectively, to view guns as the main public health threat in the U.S. Yet again we see two Americas: one red, the other blue.Guns by demographic
  4. Slow moving change. How do Americans feel about legislation around gun violence? For most Americans, the introduction of legislation aiming to reduce gun violence is coming too slowly. Republicans are more split on the issue. Again, Two Americas.Gun legislation moving too fast or too slow
  5. A winning issue. When it comes to 2024 presidential support, most Americans say they would back a candidate who supports passing stricter gun laws. This is a decisive issue for Democrats and independents. Republicans, again, are more mixed when it comes to gun control, suggesting gun control could be divisive for the party heading into the 2024 presidential primaries. Will politicians align themselves with public opinion? We will see.Whether people would support a 2024 pres candidate based on gun legislation plans

In the U.S. to date, there have been over 200 documented mass shootings. Even though 2022 saw the first federal-level intervention on gun control in over 30 years, the issue persists.

Gun violence is not going away. Whether our politics will be responsive to public opinion here remains an open question.

The author(s)
  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
  • Bernard Mendez Data Journalist
  • Sarah Feldman Senior Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs

Society