Gun Violence Has Touched 20% of Americans

April 21st, 2023 - by Sareen Habeshian / AXIOS & Politifacts

1 in 6 Americans Have Witnessed a Shooting
Sareen Habeshian / AXIOS

(April 11, 2023) — As gun violence remains on the uptick in the US, experiences with gun-related incidents are also rising, according to a KFF survey.

What they found: One-in-five US adults said they’ve personally been threatened with a gun, and one in six have personally witnessed someone being shot, per the survey

  • 19% of people reported that a family member was killed by a gun (including death by suicide).
  • In total, more than half (54%) of all US adults said they or a family member have had such an experience with gun violence.

Credit: KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation)

By the numbers: There were 20,200 gun violence related deaths last year, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

  • That’s up from 14,943 such deaths in 2018
  • In 2023 so far, there have already been 11,653 deaths as a result of gun violence, per the archive

Zoom in: People of color in the US are disproportionately affected by gun-related injuries and deaths, as well as worries about gun violence, according to the survey

  • 31% of Black adults said they have personally witnessed someone being shot, as did one-fifth of Hispanic adults (22%)
  • One-third of Black adults have a family member who was killed by a gun — that’s twice as many as white adults
  • One-third of Black adults (32%) and Hispanic adults (33%) said they worry either “every day,” or “almost every day” about themselves or a loved one becoming a victim of gun violence. That compares to one in 10 white adults

Of note: Gun deaths among America’s kids rose 50% in the last two years, according to a Pew Research Center report. • More children and teens were killed by guns in 2021 than in any year since 1999, the first year the CDC began tracking the data, Axios’ Erica Pandey writes.

Go deeper:
•   Gun violence settlements prevail as reform stalls

•   2 governors lost friends in mass shootings amid US gun violence rise


Kamala Harris stated on April 14, 2023 in a speech to the National Action Network:
“One in 5 Americans has lost a family member to gun violence.”

  • Harris’ statistic comes from a Kaiser Family Foundation survey conducted in March. The poll found that 19% of US adults have a family member who was killed by a gun, including by suicide.
    • The percentage in the Kaiser poll is higher than that found in surveys conducted in 2022 and 2018, although the three polls used differently worded questions, which makes direct comparisons tricky.

Just days after a series of high-profile incidents of gun violence, Vice President Kamala Harris sought to put the frequency of shootings in the United States into context.

“You’ve seen the statistics,” Harris said April 14 at the national convention of the civil rights group National Action Network. “Gun violence is now the No. 1 cause for death of children in our nation. And a heartbreaking 1 in 5 Americans has lost a family member to gun violence.”

We’ve repeatedly checked claims that firearms are the leading cause of death for children in the US; we’ve rated them Mostly True.

But what about Harris’ remark that “1 in 5 Americans has lost a family member to gun violence”?

Harris’ office told PolitiFact she was referring to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 1,271 adults in the US conducted in March.

The survey found that 19% of adults — essentially 1 in 5 — answered “yes” when asked, “Do you have a family member who has ever been killed by a gun, including death by suicide?”

A 2023 survey found 19% of respondents
have seen a family member killed by a gun,
including suicides

The Kaiser poll also found that 16%, or about 1 in 6, had a family member who had been injured by a gun.

And a little more than 1 in 5 US adults — 21% — told Kaiser that they have been personally threatened with a gun.

The Kaiser study broadly tracks the findings of the two relatively recent surveys we could find that asked similar questions, though Kaiser’s figures are a bit higher than those in the other polls.

SurveyUSA poll of 1,200 US adults sponsored by the pro-gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety in December 2018 found that 15% said that someone they cared for was killed by a gun.

And a 2022 nationwide survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research asked 1,373 adults, “Have you, someone in your family, or a close friend experienced gun violence in the last five years? For example, by being threatened with a gun or being the victim of a shooting.”