Gun violence is hard to study, and one of the biggest barriers to research is a dearth of data. Part of the problem lies in the fact that violence is complicated, and challenging to pull apart — but much of the challenge can be traced to the gun lobby, which has long worked to weaken federal regulation and resisted efforts to track gun sales or establish a nationwide handgun registry. 

Pinpointing the number of guns in circulation could help us better understand the relationship between firearm sales and gun violence. But instead of exact figures, The Trace’s Jennifer Mascia reported this week, we must rely on surveys, sporadic industry disclosures, and background check figures, none of which are comprehensive. Researchers have consistently found that more guns mean more gun deaths, but gun rights advocates continue to repeat the maxim that “a good guy with a gun” is the only thing that can stop “a bad guy with a gun.” Without a precise accounting, it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez and California Representative Barbara Lee have been pushing for years to let regulators track and publish federal gun data. They recently reintroduced the Gun Records and Restoration Act, which would allow the ATF to consolidate gun dealers’ records and release tracing data to the public.

For the latest Ask The Trace, Mascia waded through the numbers we do have. Charting gun production alongside annual gun deaths going back to 1968, she found that when gunmakers ramped up production, gun deaths rose. Correlation is not causation, but the data aligns with what researchers have observed for years. As criminologist Daniel Semenza said: “When there are more guns, it just increases risk.”

From Our Team

How Many Guns Are Circulating in the U.S.?: We attempt to pin down a central — yet elusive — data point in the conversation around gun violence.

The Illinois Cannabis License Lottery Is Now Prioritizing Gun Violence Survivors: While many states are striving to issue licenses to individuals afflicted by the war on drugs, Illinois is the first to give preference to those directly affected by shootings.

Join Our Storytelling Network for Gun Violence Survivors in Chicago: The deadline to apply for our Chicago-based storytelling cohort is next week. Participants will be paid a $700 stipend.

What to Know This Week

Americans bought an estimated 1.38 million guns last month, according to an analysis of FBI data, including about 840,000 handguns and 550,000 long guns. That’s about the same as in February 2022. [The Trace]

The 11th Circuit upheld a 2018 Florida law, passed in response to the Parkland school shooting, banning most people under 21 from buying firearms. The panel cited Reconstruction-era gun restrictions to prove precedent under Bruen’s “history and tradition” test. [11th Circuit Court of Appeals]

President Joe Biden’s crackdown on ghost guns is crumbling in court. After a U.S. district judge in Dallas ruled that Defense Distributed could resume selling federally banned ghost gun parts, proponents of the regulations are prepping for disaster. [VICE

The Texas Senate passed bipartisan gun safety legislation that would close a loophole in the state’s background check laws with an explicit requirement that courts report records of involuntary mental health hospitalizations for people aged 16 to 18. [The Texas Tribune]

A federal judge struck down Missouri’s Second Amendment Sanctuary Act, which penalized state and local police for enforcing federal gun laws. Meanwhile, the Ohio House is considering its own version of the law. [Missouri Independent/Ohio Capital Journal]

Florida Republicans apparently won’t add open carry to the permitless carry bill making its way through the Legislature, even after Governor Ron DeSantis said he’d sign such legislation. GOP leaders cited opposition from the influential Florida Sheriffs Association for the decision. [Florida Phoenix]

The Justice Department review of Louisville, Kentucky’s law enforcement practices found its officers routinely use “unreasonable tactics” and practice “an aggressive style of policing” against Black people and vulnerable groups. The investigation was launched after police killed Breonna Taylor inside her home in 2020. [CNN]

Kansas City, Missouri, settled a lawsuit with a local firearm shop over a gun trafficking operation led by a former Fire Department captain. Officials say the settlement is an important step in stemming the flow of illegal guns in the city — but violence prevention advocates caution it’s still too early to tell. [The Kansas City Star]

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Ahmaud Arbery’s killers are appealing their federal hate crime convictions, the first successful such prosecutions in Georgia, arguing that race did not factor into their decision to hunt and kill the 25-year-old Black man. [The Current]

What’s next for Illinois’ assault weapons ban? The state Supreme Court and a federal appeals court in Chicago will soon weigh in. [Chicago Tribune/Chicago Sun-Times] Context: The ban is part of a sweeping firearm safety law that builds on Illinois’ long fight for gun reform.

Chicago police officials are for the third time reopening the investigation into an officer who wore an extremist group’s logo while on duty at a racial justice protest in 2020, following intense scrutiny of previous reviews of officers with ties to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Uvalde’s district attorney joined the Texas Department of Public safety in fighting the release of public records related to the Robb Elementary School mass shooting, arguing that all victims’ families want them withheld. Attorneys for most of the families say that’s not accurate. [The Texas Tribune]

The city prosecutor in Newport News, Virginia, won’t seek charges against a 6-year-old who shot his elementary school teacher in January. [NBC News]

Republicans in several states are working to prohibit or limit banks and payment processors from using merchant codes to track gun sales. Major credit card companies committed to the new categorization for firearm purchases last year. [Reuters]

In Memoriam

Dyamond Hamilton, 25, was close to hitting it big, her mom, Monique Hamilton, told a local TV station. Hamilton had moved from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to Las Vegas last year to pursue a career in rap music under the name 90 Splitz, and her mother said she had just signed a deal to do an MTV show with Ray J. Last week, Hamilton was found shot to death in her apartment, one day before she was supposed to fly home for a visit. She was a lifelong basketball player, and a “zealous, fun, one of a kind, funny, gentle spirited artist,” a loved one remembered in an online fundraiser to fly her body home. “I admire Dyamond’s chasing of her dream. Isn’t this what we all want for our children? To raise them to be strong enough to chase their dreams?” wrote another. “Chasing your dreams should not cost your life.”

We Recommend

Exposed: Dallas Humber, Narrator Of Neo-Nazi ‘Terrorgram,’ Promoter Of Mass Shootings: “The Terrorgram Collective is at the heart of the international neo-Nazi accelerationist movement, the most extreme and explicit iteration of white supremacism, which advocates deadly violence and other acts of destruction to hasten the collapse of society so that a whites-only world can be built in its place. … Despite the extreme nature of this propaganda, and its direct influence on the Bratislava shooter, the identities of the people behind the Terrorgram Collective, who use pseudonyms to post their bile, have remained unknown — until now.” [HuffPost]

Pull Quote

“Under-21-year-old gunmen continue to intentionally target others — now, with disturbing regularity, in schools. So along with math, English, and science, schoolchildren must become proficient in running, hiding, and fighting armed gunmen in schools. Their lives depend upon it.”

— The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling upholding a ban on people under 21 from purchasing firearms