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‘Heartbreaking’ New Facts You Need to Know About Gun Violence in the U.S., According to Rutgers Health Experts

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New Report Exposes Alarming Truths About Gun Violence: Rutgers Experts Speak Out

Rutgers health experts deliver a sobering analysis of the escalating gun violence epidemic, offering critical insights that demand attention and action from policymakers and communities nationwide.

A new study conducted by the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center marks the first comprehensive analysis to offer nationally representative insights into gun use, storage, and violence within Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native (AIAN) families.

As per data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, both Black and Native American communities have witnessed alarming spikes in rates of gun violence victimization, spanning homicides and suicides.

Recent trends indicate a notable increase in firearm ownership among minority groups. However, prevailing research on firearm access, storage, and usage has predominantly centered on samples of white adults.

This critical gap hampers efforts to grasp the extent of firearm accessibility among Black and Native American individuals, as well as the adequacy of storage practices and patterns of carrying firearms beyond their residences.

“Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native communities,” according to lead author Michael Anestis, “have experienced heartbreaking levels of gun violence victimization, but research has told us very little about the extent to which individuals in these communities have access to firearms and how they interact with firearms in their daily lives. If we want to address gun violence within these communities, we need to first understand the ways in which the individuals within the communities are engaging with firearms.”

Rutgers researchers questioned nationally representative samples of English-speaking Black and native adults in late spring 2023 to determine how many people have access to weapons, what sorts of firearms they own, why they own firearms, and how they keep them. They also looked at how often they carried their weapons, why they did so, and where they did. Finally, researchers determined how many people in these localities have been victims of gun violence, know others who have been victims, or have seen occurrences of gun violence in their surroundings.

They discovered that roughly one in every three (30.4%) Black people and nearly half (45.5%) of AIAN adults kept weapons in their homes. In all samples, safety at home was the most popular reason for weapon access, and handguns were the most commonly held kind of firearm. Although over half of the people in each group reported usually keeping weapons safely, approximately the same number reported never employing secure storage.

They also discovered that approximately one-fifth of the people in each group habitually carried guns outside their homes. The most prevalent reason for doing so was self-defense, although a handful of people in both categories reported carrying weapons to defend others and because they didn’t trust the police.

Gun violence exposure was shockingly high in both samples: 21.7% of Black adults and 30.2% of native adults reported being threatened with a weapon, and about 40% of both groups reported personally knowing someone who had been shot.

To further understand how universal these results are within each group, the scientists looked at how findings vary by sex, age, geographic location, rurality, and views on politics.

Although many results were consistent across various subgroups, the authors observed considerable variation.

The new study shows “that firearms are frequently present in the homes of Black and American Indian/Alaskan Native adults, with most owning for personal protection, many storing the firearms unsecured, and a meaningful group regularly carrying the firearms when they leave their homes.”

“In addition to the frequent presence of and interactions with firearms, both communities,” according to Anestis, “endorsed high levels of gun violence exposure.”

“What this tells me is that firearms are, in many cases, dramatically impacting the daily lives of individuals in these communities and our efforts to prevent gun violence – including through the promotion of secure firearm storage – much adapt to fit the reality of firearms within these particular communities.”

Image Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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