Josh Sugarmann is the executive director and founder of the Violence Policy Center (VPC). Prior to founding the VPC, Sugarmann was a press officer in the national office of Amnesty International USA and was the communications director for the National Coalition to Ban Handguns.
Sugarmann has been credited with popularizing the term "assault weapon". The impression that Sugarmann originated the term may stem from a 1988 study he authored, Assault Weapons and Accessories in America, which was the first study to look at semiautomatic weapons the VPC deemed "assault weapons". He is known for taking the position that gun violence should be approached as a broadbased public health issue as opposed to solely a crime issue and that firearms should be held to the same health and safety standards as other consumer products. This is detailed in the 1994 publication Cease Fire: A Comprehensive Strategy to Reduce Firearms Violence, which he co-authored. Noting that only two consumer products sold in America are not regulated for health and safety—guns and tobacco—he argues that firearms should be regulated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Sugarmann has written two books on gun violence issues. The first, National Rifle Association: Money, Firepower & Fear, an expose of the National Rifle Association, was published in 1992 by National Press Books. The second, Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns, was published in 2000 by The New Press and details the arguments in support of banning private handgun possession in the United States. In contrast to many gun-control activists, he believes a full ban on handguns is necessary. He has also called for bans on semi-automatic rifles and standard-capacity magazines.
"On television news, anchors refer to the school shootings as “unavoidable,” as if such mass shootings are the bastard children born of hurricanes and snowstorms."
-Josh Sugarmann, "Schoolgirls Executed In Their Own Classroom: America Shrugs," October, 2006
"Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons."
"One tenet of the National Rifle Association's faith has always been that handgun controls do little to stop criminals from obtaining handguns. For once, the NRA is right and America's leading handgun control organization is wrong. Criminals don't buy guns in gun stores. That's why they're criminals. But it isn't criminals who are killing most of the 20,000 to 22,000 people who die from handguns each year. We are."
-Josh Sugarmann, "The NRA is Right: But We Still Need to Ban Handguns," The Washington Monthly, June 1987. (link to article)
- Olinger, David (2012-12-21). "War comes home for founder of group fighting for assault weapons ban". Denver Post. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- Aaron Blake (January 17, 2013). "Is it fair to call them ‘assault weapons’?". Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-01-30. "The term “assault weapon” became widely used starting the late 1980s. Many attribute its popularization to a 1988 paper written by gun-control activist and Violence Policy Center founder Josh Sugarmann and the later reaction to a mass shooting at a Stockton, Calif., school in January 1989."
- "National Rifle Assoc (review)". Publishers Weekly. 05/04/1992.
- Broderick, J (1992-1-1). "Book reviews: Social sciences (Reviews the book `NRA: Money, Firepower & Fear,` by Josh Sugarmann.)". Library Journal 117 (1): 155.
- "Every Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns". Publishers Weekly. 03/01/2001. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- Brustman, Mary Jane (4/1/2001). "Every Handgun Is Aimed at You (Book Review).". Library Journal 126 (6): 117.
- Stone, Peter (5/7/2001). "Lethal Weapons (Reviews three non-fiction books on gun ban. 'Gun Violence: The Real Costs,' by Philip J. Cook; 'Shots in the Dark: The Policy, Politics and Symbolism of Gun Control,' by William J. Vizzard; 'Every Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns,' by Josh Sugarman.)". American Prospect 12 (8): 46.
- ERIC LICHTBLAU; RICHARD SIMON (April 18, 2000). "Gun-Control Movement Split by Ambition to Ban Handguns". LA Times. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- Barrett, Paul (August 7, 2012). "Semi-Automatic Thinking on Gun Control". Business Week. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- "Assault Weapons & Accessories". Violence Policy Center. Retrieved 2005-02-26. "Assault weapons—just like armor-piercing bullets, machine guns, and plastic firearms—are a new topic. The weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semi-automatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase the chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons. In addition, few people can envision a practical use for these weapons."
- Sugarmann, Josh (1988). Assault Weapons and Accessories in America. Washington, D.C.: Firearms Policy Project of the Violence Policy Center. ISBN 978-0-927291-00-2.