Violence Policy Center

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Violence Policy Center
Founded1988 (1988)
FounderJosh Sugarmann[1]
Area served
United States

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) is an American nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control.

Organizational background[edit]

According to Josh Sugarmann, its founder, the VPC approaches violence, and firearms violence in particular, as a public health issue affecting the whole population, rather than solely a criminal matter.[3] The VPC is known mainly for its in-depth research on the firearms industry, the causes and effects of gun violence, and the advocacy of regulatory policies to reduce gun violence.[3] The VPC advocates for gun control legislation and policy.

The VPC relies on donations from the public and foundation support. The primary foundation donor to the VPC is the Joyce Foundation.[4] The VPC publicizes its research through the news media and through coalitions with other advocacy organizations.[3]


Annual reports on impact of gun violence[edit]

Using data from federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the VPC publishes annual state-by-state reports on the effects of gun violence. It has examined the effects of gun violence on specific populations:

  • Females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents,[5] published to coincide with Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October;[6]
  • Black homicide victimization;[7]
  • Hispanic homicide victimization.[8]

Concealed carry[edit]

The VPC maintains a "Concealed Carry Killers" database of fatal non-self defense killings involving private citizens who are legally allowed to carry concealed handguns in public.[9][10] The VPC also highlights mass shootings involving persons legally allowed to carry concealed handguns in public.[11]

The database was criticized by Clayton Cramer, who claimed that the statistics were inaccurate.[12] John Lott's Crime Prevention Research Center website posted an article questioning the numbers presented on the Concealed Carry Killers database. According to the article, suicides, which may or may not have involved a firearm, and motor vehicle homicides caused by intoxication, are included in the statistics.[13]

Gun industry donations[edit]

The VPC has issued reports that document the gun industry's financial contributions to the National Rifle Association (NRA). In 2013, the VPC said that the firearms industry has donated between $19.3 million and $60.2 million to the NRA since 2005.[14]

50-caliber rifles[edit]

The VPC has long advocated for a ban on .50-caliber rifles. In 2001, the VPC issued a study that detailed "the 50 caliber's threat as an ideal tool for assassination and terrorism, including its ability to attack and cripple key elements of the nation's critical infrastructure—including aircraft and other transportation, electrical power grids, pipeline networks, chemical plants, and other hazardous industrial facilities".[15]

In January 2005, the VPC was featured on the CBS news and current affairs program 60 Minutes, which ran a segment on .50-caliber rifles and their alleged threat to public safety.[16] It drew from VPC reports on the .50 BMG cartridge. Interviews were featured with both Ronnie Barrett of Barrett Firearms and Tom Diaz of the VPC.

The NRA objected, alleging that the story was biased in the VPC's favor; it claimed that no .50-caliber rifle has ever been used in the commission of a crime. In response, the VPC issued a backgrounder detailing criminal use and possession of .50-caliber rifles, including examples of murders by criminals using this weapon.[17] The list does not clarify whether the weapons seized were possessed legally or not, and makes no distinction between use of a .50 caliber rifle in a crime and possession of a .50 caliber rifle by a person committing an unrelated crime.

In September 2004, California passed a law to ban .50 caliber rifles, the only state to do so.[18]

Firearms imports[edit]

CBS reported that numerous firearms are sold in the United States that were illegally trafficked into Mexico and legally imported into the United States, where they are sold to "straw purchasers" and other illegal traffickers.[19] In testimony to Congress and in reports, the VPC has stated that the U.S. government is not enforcing the "sporting purposes" test,[20] which bans the import of firearms that lack a sporting purpose.[21]

In 1989, ATF officials in the administration of President George H. W. Bush used their powers to prohibit the import of firearms that are not "generally recognized as particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes." Despite this prohibition, gun manufacturers skirted the ban by making cosmetic changes to their weapons to comply with the law. The Clinton administration reviewed the case, and as a result banned certain weapons from import.[22]

The VPC argues that today the import ban has for the most part been abandoned, and foreign-made assault weapons—whole and in parts—are being freely imported into the United States.[23] In response, the VPC has asked the ATF to enforce a ban on the import of foreign-made assault weapons.

Eddie Eagle study[edit]

In November, 1997 the Violence Policy Center published a study of the NRA's Eddie Eagle program, entitled Joe Camel With Feathers.[24] Key findings included:

The primary goal of the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle program is not to safeguard children, but to protect the interests of the NRA and the firearms industry by making guns more acceptable to children and youth. The Eddie Eagle program employs strategies similar to those utilized by America's tobacco industry—from youth "educational" programs that are in fact marketing tools to the use of appealing cartoon characters that aim to put a friendly face on a hazardous product.[24]

Other key findings included that "the NRA uses the Eddie Eagle as a lobbying tool" in its opposition to child access prevention laws and mandatory trigger lock laws; that "Rather than recognizing the inherent danger firearms in the home pose to children, and the often irresponsible firearms storage behavior of adults, the Eddie Eagle program places the onus of safety and responsibility on the children themselves"; and that "Public health researchers have found that 'gun safety' programs like Eddie Eagle are ineffective in preventing unintentional death and injury from firearms."[24][25][26]

The study's key findings were summarized in major newspapers including The New York Times,[27] The Washington Post,[28] and the Chicago Tribune[29] as well as regional newspapers including The Philadelphia Inquirer,[30] Newsday,[25] The Times-Picayune,[31] and others, and in the book Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law edited by Gregg Lee Carter, professor of history at Bryant University in an article on Eddie Eagle by Robert J. Spitzer.[26] The NRA called the study "ludicrous" and threaten to sue the VPC.[27]

Proliferation of federal firearms licenses[edit]

The VPC has spoken out against the "criminal abuse" of the Federal Firearms License system, which has resulted in a proliferation of licenses. The VPC states that the high number of FFLs inflated by "kitchen counter" dealers and those not "engaged in the business" make it impossible for the ATF to regulate them all, and has called for the ATF to cease issuing such licenses in order to reduce licensees to a more manageable number.[32] Josh Sugarmann holds a federal firearms license with the principle place of business at the address of the VPC. He has stated he does not sell firearms, although the license exempts him from many of the restrictions of Washington D.C. gun laws.[33]


The VPC distributes its published research and analysis to members of Congress and their staffs. Numerous US gun control organizations have used VPC reports and terminology to advance local and national gun control initiatives.[34] VPC research results and policy positions have been cited by major news organizations including The New York Times,[18][27] The Washington Post,[28] the Chicago Tribune,[29] CNN,[35][36] the Associated Press,[6][37] and Reuters.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Huffington Post -- Josh Sugarmann." Retrieved 2013-8-5.
  2. ^ "About the VPC | Violence Policy Center". Archived from the original on 2015-09-19.
  3. ^ a b c Carter, Greg Lee (2012). Gregg Lee Carter (ed.). Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law, 2nd Edition. ABC CLIO. ISBN 978-0313386701.
  4. ^ "The Joyce Foundation - Gun Violence Prevention Grantees." Retrieved 2013-8-5. Archived 2013-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Flatow, Nicole. "How Guns at Home Can Make Women Less Safe". Think Progress, Sept. 26, 2013.
  6. ^ a b Associated Press. "SC Worst in Nation for Violence Against Women." Sept. 25, 2013
  7. ^ Whaley, Natelege (2014-01-27). "National Crisis: Study Says Blacks Are 50 Percent of U.S. Homicide Victims". BET. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  8. ^ "Gun control group: Murder rate for Hispanics more than double that for whites". Fox News Latino. EFE. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  9. ^ "VPC: Concealed Carry Killers". Archived from the original on 2015-03-27.
  10. ^ McCarthy, Ciara. "Concealed Carry is Now Legal in All 50 States, and the NRA Doesn't Want Us to Know What That Really Means." Slate, July 11, 2013.
  11. ^ Sugarmann, Josh. "Hialeah: Only the Latest Mass Shooting by a Concealed Carry Killer." Huffington Post, July 30, 2013.
  12. ^ Cramer, Clayton E. (28 June 2012). "Violence Policy Center's Concealed Carry Killers: Less Than It Appears".
  13. ^ "Massive errors in the Violence Policy Center's "Concealed Carry Killers" - Crime Prevention Research Center". 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2016-08-04.
  14. ^ Curry, George E. "Obama Reignites Push for Gun Legislation." Los Angeles Sentinel, Sept. 26, 2013.
  15. ^ "Voting From the Rooftops - Contents". VPC. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  16. ^ HNathanielS September 4, 2011 4:39 AM EDT (2011-09-04). "Big Rifle A Terrorist Tool?". CBS News. Retrieved 2011-12-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ "Criminal Use of the 50 Caliber Sniper Rifle". VPC. Archived from the original on 2015-08-18. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  18. ^ a b Marshall, Carolyn. "California Bans a Large-Caliber Gun, and the Battle is On." New York Times, January 4, 2005.
  19. ^ Attkisson, Sharyl. "Legal U.S. gun sales to Mexico arming cartels.", December 6, 2011.
  20. ^ 18 U.S.C. § 925(d)(3)
  21. ^ Statement of Kristen Rand, Legislative Director, Violence Policy Center, Before Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, March 18, 2009.
  22. ^ U.S. Department of the Treasury. Department of the Treasury Study on the Sporting Suitability of Modified Semiautomatic Assault Rifles, April 1998.
  23. ^ Schmitt, Rick. Romanian weapons modified in the U.S. become scourge of Mexican drug war. The Center for Public Integrity, December 21, 2012.
  24. ^ a b c Glick, Susan; Sugarmann, Josh (November 19, 1997). Joe Camel with Feathers: How the NRA with Gun and Tobacco Industry Dollars Uses its Eddie Eagle Program to Market Guns to Kids. Violence Policy Center. ISBN 9780927291163. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  25. ^ a b Cocco, Marie (December 1, 1997). "NRA's 'Eddie Eagle' Flies In Face Of Logic". Sun-Sentinel. Newsday. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  26. ^ a b Spitzer, Robert J. (2012). "Eddie Eagle". In Carter, Gregg Lee (ed.). Guns in American Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics, Culture, and the Law. Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313386701.
  27. ^ a b c Seelye, Katharine Q. (November 9, 1997). "Critics Say N.R.A. Uses Safety Campaign to Lure Children". The New York Times. p. 24. Retrieved December 8, 2016.
  28. ^ a b Walsh, Sharon (March 28, 1998). "Gun Sellers Look to Future -- Children". The Washington Post. p. 1.
  29. ^ a b Bendavid, Naftali (November 20, 1997). "NRA Safety Cartoon Attacked: Gun-control Report Calls Eddie Eagle A Bird Of Prey". Chicago Tribune.
  30. ^ Matza, Michael (June 5, 1998). "NRA GUN-SAFETY PROGRAM IS HIT WITH YOUNG CHILDREN". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  31. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q. (November 20, 1997). "NRA LURING CHILDREN, ANTI-GUN GROUP SAYS EDDIE EAGLE LIKENED TO DISGRACED JOE CAMEL". The Times-Picayune.
  32. ^ "New Study–More Gun Dealers Than Gas Stations–Documents Criminal Abuse of Federal Gun Dealer Licenses and Regulatory Failures of Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF)". VPC. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
  33. ^ "Federal Firearms License Of Josh Sugarmann & Violence Policy Center". AmmoLand. 30 October 2017. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
  34. ^ "The Violence Policy Center in the News". Violence Policy Center. Retrieved 2011-12-16.
  35. ^ Holmes, Steven (January 12, 2016). "Gun control groups emphasize suicides in bid for more public support". CNN. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  36. ^ Brennan, Allison (August 1, 2012). "Analysis: Fewer U.S. gun owners own more guns". CNN. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  37. ^ Caldwell, Alicia A. (December 3, 2015). "Rifles in deadly shooting legal in state with strict laws". Business Insider. Associated Press. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  38. ^ Abutaleb, Yasmeen (July 11, 2013). "Ratio of U.S. youth murders committed by guns increasing: study". Reuters. Retrieved April 4, 2017.

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