A new report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law examines gun violence against LGBT people, including suicides, homicides, and other forms of gun violence. Researchers conclude that gun violence is a significant concern for this population, but there are many unanswered or unexplored questions, such as the role of guns in suicide death, intimate partner violence, and hate crimes. These gaps are partially due to a lack of data: Death and injury surveillance systems in the United States largely do not measure the sexual orientation or gender identity of victims and perpetrators.
“Government data systems must do a better job tracking the deaths and injuries of LGBT people so we can better understand firearm violence against this population, including differences by race/ethnicity, geography, and other characteristics,” said lead author Adam P. Romero, Federal Policy Director and Arnold D. Kassoy Scholar of Law at the Williams Institute. “This is especially important because studies show that LGBT people have an elevated risk of violent death, which is related to anti-LGBT stigma and discrimination.”
In a previous study, the Williams Institute found that an estimated 18.8 percent of lesbians, gay, bisexual (LGB) adults in the US have guns in their home, compared to 35.1 percent of heterosexuals. Among both LGB and heterosexual adults, non-Hispanic Whites are more likely to have a gun at home than other races/ethnicities. Overall, LGB adults are more likely than heterosexuals to support gun reform measures, such as background checks for all gun sales.
The current report synthesizes literature on gun violence impacting both the general US population and LGBT people, discusses evidence-based interventions to reduce gun violence, and establishes a research agenda. Key findings from the literature include:
- More than half (51%) of all suicides in the US are by firearm and suicide attempts by firearm are usually lethal, resulting in death 85% of the time.
- Between 10-20% of LGB people report having attempted suicide at least once in their lifetime.
- In a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 47.7% of LGB students had seriously considered suicide in the prior 12 months, compared to 13.3% of heterosexual students.
- 6% of transgender youth had attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 9.1% of cisgender girls and 5.5% of cisgender boys.
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
- LGBT people experience IPV as often as or more often than the general U.S. population. Bisexual women in particular report high levels of IPV at the hands of male partners.
- According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 15% of bisexual women compared to 4.4% of heterosexual women reported that their partner used a knife or a gun.
- Since 2010, there has been a 26% increase in firearm intimate partner homicide (IPH). Limited research indicates that gun use against gay and lesbian victims of IPH may not be as frequent as with heterosexual victims, possibly due to the lower prevalence of gun ownership by LGB people.
- Over 10,300 hate crimes involve a firearm each year and nearly one-fifth of hate crimes are based on sexual orientation or gender identity bias.
- LGBT people are victims of person-based (rather than property-based) violence at higher rates than victims of religiously or racially motivated crimes.
- Sexual and gender minority students are more likely to be threatened with a weapon at school than heterosexual students.
“The Hope and Heal Fund is a proud funder of this timely and important report and we thank the Williams Institute for their tremendous work,” said Brian Malte, Executive Director of the Hope and Heal Fund. “With many unanswered questions due to large gaps in data available, it’s critical to take the next steps to uncover actionable data to inform effective strategies to stop gun violence in the LGBT community. This report provides the roadmap of the data needed to advance gun violence prevention efforts that will result in lives saved.”
The Williams Institute will host a webinar on May 23, 2019 to discuss the findings of the report, potential implications of this research for policies and interventions to reduce gun violence among LGBT people, and needed research and data.