Gun Violence: How Worried Are Americans?

SafeWise experts have years of firsthand experience testing the products we recommend. Learn how we test and review. We may earn money when you buy through our links.

bullet
Mass shooting in Lewiston

We were devastated to learn about the tragic and deadly shootings at a Lewiston bowling alley and bar last night. As residents reel from the aftermath of this horrible event, it can be difficult to explain things like this, especially to children. We spoke to an expert in child psychology and trauma to help guide parents and other adults when it comes to talking about gun violence events. Hold each other close, and stay safe.

Nearly 1 in 2 Americans are highly concerned about gun violence every single day.

Since 2018, we’ve surveyed over 20,000 Americans—with representation from each state—to find out how worried people are about different crime and safety issues.

Our first State of Safety survey didn’t specifically ask about anything related to guns. But, due to a number of spontaneous answers showing high anxiety in this area, we added questions about mass shootings and gun violence (in general) to subsequent surveys.

Here’s what America told us—and the tragic numbers driving a national concern about this ongoing issue.

Stay Safe and become a SafeWise Insider!

Sign up for our free weekly newsletter to get the best safety news, product info, and deals.

By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Some facts about US gun violence so far in 2023

Updated 10.27.23

Unfortunately, I opened my news browser to the ongoing manhunt for the shooter in Maine who took 18 lives on Wednesday.  This incident at a bowling alley and bar in Lewiston, Maine marks 565 mass shootings so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive

bullet
How to talk to kids about school shootings

This is something I never had to address with my kids (thankfully), but these days we need to help our youth process the ongoing specter of gun violence in schools.

Here's a quick rundown of recommendations from a child stress and trauma expert:

  • Make sure you stay calm
  • Be a good listener
  • Tailor your approach to your child's age
  • Help kids cope with anxiety around these events, drills, etc.
  • Make a game plan for trauma care, if needed


Read the full recommendations in our guide to talking to kids about school shootings.

Year-to-date, more than 35,000 people have lost their lives to gun violence in the US. Of those, 603 people have been killed in a mass shooting incident. An additional 32 suspects were also killed.  

Here’s a breakdown of how this year looks compared to 2022:

  • 2023 has seen an average of 1.9 mass shootings per day—2022 had 1.7 per day.
  • If we keep up that pace, we’re on track for 693 mass shootings this year—that’s a 7% increase year over year, which means we could see 46 more mass shooting incidents in 2023.
  • As of October 27, the US is losing around 118 people per day to gun violence; we lost more than 120 per day in 2022.
  • If the 2023 pace holds steady, we could see a 3% decline in gun-related deaths year over year—that means over 1,300 fewer lives lost.
  • In 2021, there were 690 mass shootings in the US; the highest ever on record. If the 2023 pace continues, we'll see 693, setting a new record.

Americans have a complicated relationship with guns

Concern about gun violence and mass shootings increased by 31% year over year—jumping from 36% to 47%. Guns, in general, have been showing up in survey respondents’ open answers since our first survey in 2018.

Some people rely on firearms as a form of protection, others are afraid of ongoing reports about mass shootings and other gun incidents in the news, and some are worried about gun rights being threatened.

“[I worry about] the people trying to take gun owners’ guns away.” —Kansas respondent

12% of Kansas respondents reported experience with gun violence, and Kansas is the 16th least-concerned state in regard to gun violence.

Gun incidents are getting closer to home

What stood out in our most recent survey was the number of people who told us they regularly hear gunshots in their neighborhood. People also reported more gun incidents closer to where they live. I've personally had two gunfire incidents this past year—one right outside a house where I was visiting and one down the street in my neighborhood.

Of all comments that mentioned guns or gun violence, 9 out of 10 expressed anxiety or fear.

“In the area where I live, there seems to be a lot more shootings than there used to be.” —Indiana respondent

10% of Indiana respondents reported experience with gun violence, and Indiana is the 13th most-concerned state in regard to gun violence.

“I hear gunshots two to three times a week in my neighborhood.” —South Carolina respondent

22% of South Carolina respondents reported experience with gun violence (a 10 point jump year over year), and South Carolina is the twelfth most-concerned state in regard to gun violence.

Personal experience with a gun violence incident rose 50% year over year, and nearly 5 in 10 Americans are worried about a gun violence incident happening to them.

  • The states that saw the most mass shooting incidents in 2022, are Illinois with 57, California and Texas with 50 each, and Pennsylvania with 34 incidents.
  • When it comes to concern about gun violence, Illinois tops the list with 3 in 4 Louisiana residents highly concerned on a daily basis.
  • The states that reported the most personal experience with gun violence in 2021 are Georgia (25%), Louisiana (23%), and South Carolina (22%).
  • Nationwide, more than 1 in 10 survey respondents reported a personal experience with gun violence in the past 12 months.
“Do I need a gun? Will there be a time when . . . people all are running rampant with their guns and I will be in danger because I do not have one?” —Louisiana respondent

23% of Louisiana respondents reported experience with gun violence (a 12 point rise year over year), and Louisiana is the second most-concerned state in regard to gun violence.

Some rely on guns for protection

Many Americans look to guns to protect themselves, their families, and their property. But we were surprised to find that more people use a firearm for personal protection than to keep their property safe.

bullet
From no guns to pro guns

Worry and fear are driving some people who were anti-gun to embrace firearms for protection.

Gun sales have also been growing in populations that typically adopt guns at a lower rate. Sales to both women and people of color first jumped in 2020.

  • 30% of respondents who use a form of home protection use firearms—15% more than the previous reporting year.
  • 41% of respondents who use a form of personal protection rely on a concealed carry firearm, a rise of 8% year over year.
  • Use of firearms for protection rose across the board between our 2022 and 2023 reports.
  • Depending on the source, between 20% and 40% of gun purchases in 2020 were first-time gun owners.
“No concerns keep me up. I have a gun in every room.” —Alaska respondent

12% of Alaska respondents reported experience with gun violence—double what was reported the previous year, and Alaska is the eighth least-concerned state in regard to gun violence.

Gun violence by the numbers

The country seems to be constantly shaken by new reports of gun violence. Here’s a look at how 2023 (so far) compares to the rate of shootings across the country in recent years.

Gun violence statistics in the US 2018–2023*

YearGun violence deaths Gun violence injuriesMass shootings
202335,389*30,674*566*
202244,33338,587646
202145,11640,611690
202043,72739,543610
201939,60230,204417
201814,94628,285336

*Year-to-date data for 2023 through October 27, 2023.

Notable findings

  • There were nearly 30,000 more gun violence deaths in 2022 compared to 2018.
  • After peaking in 2021, deaths due to gun violence decreased 1.7% between 2021 and 2022.
  • Gun violence injuries decreased almost 5% between 2021 and 2022.
  • Mass shootings fell just over 6% from 2021 to 2022.
  • Nearly one quarter through the year, 2023 has seen 17,315 deaths and injuries due to gun violence—that’s 21% of 2022’s total.
  • 2023 has had 130 mass shootings as of March 27—20% of the total incidents seen in 2022.

Surprising state insights

These states all saw more than one million firearms background checks in 2022.

  • Illinois: 4,476,055
  • Kentucky: 4,016,510
  • Texas: 1,732,651
  • Florida: 1,474,730
  • California: 1,431,993
  • Pennsylvania: 1,229,129
  • Indiana: 1,105,040
  • Utah: 1,014,277

These states saw the most mass shooting incidents in 2022.

  • Illinois: 57
  • California: 50
  • Texas: 50
  • Pennsylvania: 34
  • Florida: 31
  • New York: 31

To find out more about gun violence attitudes, perceptions, and experiences in your state, see our Safest Cities reports or read the full State of Safety in America 2023 report.

Firearms checks data from the FBI as of June 30, 2021.

Mass shooting data from Gun Violence Archive as of July 14, 2021.

Related articles on SafeWise


Endnotes

Gun violence

SafeWise uses data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) to track gun violence incidents. We also adhere to the GVA definition for mass shootings.

Mass shooting definition: “If four or more people are shot or killed in a single incident, not involving the shooter, that incident is categorized as a mass shooting based purely on that numerical threshold.”

All GVA data is current as of the date last accessed. The GVA regularly changes and updates its data as incidents are examined for accuracy.


Sources

  1. SafeWise, “2021 State of Safety survey,” Accessed March 27, 2023.
  2. Gun Violence Archive, “Mass Shootings in 2023,” Accessed March 27, 2023.
  3. Gun Violence Archive, “Past Summary Ledgers,” Accessed March 27, 2023.
  4. Gun Violence Archive, “General Methodology,” Accessed March 27, 2023.
  5. FBI, "NICS Firearm Checks: Month/Year by State," Accessed March 27, 2023.
Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

Recent Articles

Man and woman couple wife husband set up surveillance security camera
Best Apartment Security Systems
These renter-friendly apartment security systems help keep you safe and require less commitment than your...
diy-security-system-on-ipad
Best DIY Home Security Systems of 2024
SimpliSafe is the best DIY home security system because it's cost-efficient, effective, and easy to...
woman adjusting thermostat in bright home
Best Home Security Systems
After thousands of hours of tests and research, we picked Vivint and SimpliSafe as the...
medical alert products on an illustrated background
Best Medical Alert Systems
See which medical alert system is the best to keep you and your loved one...