Gun violence is a major cause of preventable mortality; each year, gun violence accounts for 68% of US homicidesand exacts an economic toll of over $229 billion. The presence of guns is associated with increased risk of death, largely because of acts of violence, self- or other-directed, are lethal when a gun is used. Violence is a significant problem for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; however, the extent to which guns contribute to LGBT morbidity and mortality is currently unknown.
Suicide attempts, intimate partner violence (IPV), and other forms of inter-personal violence occur at comparable or higher rates among LGBT people relative to the general population. Lifetime suicide attempts are two to four times more common among LGB youthand adults than among heterosexuals and are over five to eight times more common among transgender adults than the general population. In fact, according to the largest survey of transgender and gender non-conforming adults to date, over 40% of respondents made at least one-lifetime suicide attempt Nearly one out of four LGB adults has experienced physical and/or sexual victimization by an intimate partner – similar to non-LGB adults. IPV is more common among transgender than cisgender adults and among bisexual compared to heterosexual women – particularly in the context of male-female relationships. Moreover, disproportionate exposure to school-based bullying, including being threatened with weapons at school, has been widely documented among LGBT youth, impacting their mental health now, and in the future, by increasing the likelihood of school drop-out and poverty.
In 1990, the Hate Crimes Statistics Actmandated federal collection of data on hate crimes based on sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and religion. Following the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, this mandate was expanded to include hate crimes based on gender and gender identity. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) Program manages this data collection and reports on hate crimes based on anti-gay and anti-transgender bias. In 2016, the Bureau of Justice Statistics began collecting sexual orientation and gender identity information, among other demographics, from respondents to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). In 2016, 17.9% of reported hate crimes were attributed to anti-LGBT bias, whereas LGBT people were only 4.5% of the population. Many anti-LGBT hate crimes entail a weapon; however, the UCR does not specify whether the weapon was a gun.
Information about the extent to which guns have been used against and by LGBT people is currently lacking. Indeed, information about sexual orientation and gender identity is not collected on death certificates,nor in most public systems and registries that track injury. These gaps inhibit knowledge about the extent and characteristics of gun violence experienced by LGBT people and inhibit efforts to integrate LGBT people in gun prevention efforts. This study aims to fill gaps in knowledge about LGBT gun violence by: 1) generating estimates of gun ownership and attitudes towards gun control by sexual orientation, and, 2) identifying opportunities to improve data collection about LGBT gun violence through a review of surveillance systems used to track gun violence.