Impacts of Firearm Violence

Identifying opportunities to save lives, reduce trauma, and address mental health challenges resulting from firearm violence

Impacts of Firearm Violence

Firearm violence is a serious problem in California. Millions of Californians are exposed to firearm violence each year, some on a daily basis. More than one out of four Californians consider gunshots and shootings a concern in their neighborhood, and one out of five Californians know someone who has been shot on purpose.

“Exposure to firearm violence in all its forms can be toxic for the person and the community, but trauma is preventable. We can work collaboratively to reduce risk, mitigate harm, and heal together.”
Keyondria Bunch, Ph.D.

Commissioner & Project Chair, MHSOAC


This project aims to identify opportunities to save lives, reduce trauma, and address the mental health challenges that result from firearm violence. This work can only happen in partnership with the community, including those with lived experience with gun violence, physicians and mental health providers, responsible gun owners and firearm safety advocates, community-based organizations, racial and ethnic minorities, law enforcement, and others. Through this project, the Commission an opportunity to learn, inform, and start valuable conversations across systems and with diverse groups.


Over 3,400 people die from firearm violence in California each year; about half of these are homicides and just under half of them are suicides. Firearm injuries are experienced by even more Californians, with over 7,000 nonfatal firearm injuries each year. In 2020, there were 5,719 visits to the emergency department due to a firearm injury, and 3,855 hospitalizations. In addition to the detrimental physical health problems that follow firearm violence, firearm violence also impacts mental health and wellbeing. Exposure to firearm violence – whether direct or indirect – can cause a toxic stress response, which often leads to the development of short- and long-term mental health challenges.

California’s rate of firearm death are lower than the national average (8.5 per 100,000 vs 13.6 per 100,000), but still far outpaces the rates in similar countries in the European Union, Australia, and Canada. The United States is a significant outlier in rates of firearm injury and death, indicating that there are unique factors contributing to firearm violence as well as unique potential solutions to address those factors.

To explore the mental health impacts of firearm violence and develop strategies to respond to them, the Commission formed the Impacts of Firearm Violence Subcommittee at the August 2022 Commission meeting. The Subcommittee is exploring mental health as a contributing or contextual factor in the experience of firearm violence, opportunities to intervene in firearm violence drawing from a mental health perspective, and opportunities to promote healing and resiliency in the aftermath of firearm violence exposure.

Next Steps

  1. Engage Partners

    Engage with partners in threat assessment and crisis response, including those in the mental health and firearm violence space.

  2. Explore and Evaluate Data

    Explore and evaluate available data sources to understand the full landscape of available data.

  3. Engage Community

    Engage with community members, including youth, to involve those who are most impacted in the information-gathering, analysis, and decision-making processes.