The Violence Policy Center (VPC) works to stop gun death and injury through research, education, advocacy, and collaboration. Founded in 1988 by Executive Director Josh Sugarmann, a native of Newtown, Connecticut, the VPC informs the public about the impact of gun violence on their daily lives, exposes the profit-driven marketing and lobbying activities of the firearms industry and gun lobby, offers unique technical expertise to policymakers, organizations, and advocates on the federal, state, and local levels, and works for policy changes that save lives.
The VPC has a long and proven record of policy successes on the federal, state, and local levels, leading the National Rifle Association to acknowledge us as “the most effective … anti-gun rabble rouser in Washington.”
Gun violence is not only a crime problem: It is a public health epidemic. In 2020, more than 45,000 Americans died from gun violence in suicides, homicides, and unintentional shootings. Shockingly, guns are the only consumer product manufactured in America that the federal government does not regulate for health and safety. The gun industry has exploited this unique exemption by designing, manufacturing, and marketing increasingly lethal products, nearly always using crossover military technologies.
The inevitable result of this militarized civilian gun industry can be seen across our nation: from mass shootings using semiautomatic weapons with high-capacity ammunition magazines, to vigilante justice meted out by concealed handgun permit holders. At the same time, in the face of declining household gun ownership, the firearms industry is targeting women and even grade-school children as their new potential customers.
The VPC firmly believes the answer to reducing gun violence lies in applying the decades-long lessons of public health injury prevention and consumer product safety regulation to the gun industry and its products.
RESEARCH: We publish timely, well-informed, original studies on gun violence in the United States. We draw upon our deep and unique expertise on the firearms industry, gun violence data, the causes of gun violence, and public health approaches to reducing firearm death and injury.
EDUCATION: We inform the public of our research through targeted campaigns involving news media outreach, social media, and public events. We are an essential point of contact for the press, the public, elected officials, organizations, and advocates who need timely and accurate answers to often complex questions.
ADVOCACY: We bring an informed and evidence-based perspective to the campaign for stronger gun violence prevention laws and policies. We build relationships with policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels to work for effective solutions that will save lives.
COLLABORATION: We partner with a diverse range of organizations working on gun violence prevention and related issues, working together to build and grow a national movement for change.
Our Staff and Leadership
Violence Policy Center staff have decades-long experience and knowledge in gun violence prevention. Key staff members include:
Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director.
Josh Sugarmann, a native of Newtown, Connecticut, has been executive director of the Violence Policy Center since he founded it in 1988. Prior to establishing the VPC, he served as a press officer in the national office of Amnesty International USA and as the communications director for the National Coalition to Ban Handguns. He is also the author of two books, NRA: Money, Firepower & Fear and Every Handgun is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns.
Kristen Rand, Government Affairs Director.
Kristen Rand serves as legislative director for the Violence Policy Center and is a leading expert on firearms regulation and product liability. Before joining the VPC in 1994, Ms. Rand served as counsel with Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports) where she was responsible for implementing CU’s legislative and regulatory agenda on product safety, product liability, and pesticide regulation. In 2008, Ms. Rand served in an individual and voluntary capacity on the Criminal Justice Policy Committee for the Obama campaign.
Marty Langley, Senior Policy Analyst.
Joining the Violence Policy Center in 1996, Marty Langley serves as senior policy analyst and conducts research on the firearms industry, the effects of gun violence on specific populations, and the use of firearms in crime and violence. Utilizing federal data sets (both public and unpublished) he provides the quantitative data and analysis for a wide range of annual Violence Policy Center reports and also oversees the VPC’s websites.
The Violence Policy Center is governed by a nine-member board of directors, none of whom receive compensation except for the executive director. The board is headed by an executive leadership group that includes the board chair, treasurer, and secretary. For security reasons the names of board members are not listed on the VPC’s website.
The VPC has a long record of achievements that have increased the public’s understanding of the gun violence epidemic, led to the enactment of new laws, and diminished the power of the gun industry and gun lobby.
Our study, More Gun Dealers Than Gas Stations, resulted in federal policy changes that reduced the number of gun dealers from more than 250,000 to fewer than 56,000 today. We led the coalition that passed the federal Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, which bans gun possession by those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses. We exposed the rising threat posed by 50 caliber sniper rifles — weapons of war that can penetrate armor plating from a mile away and down jetliners on takeoff and landing but are sold under federal law with fewer controls than a handgun. As a result of our efforts, these weapons are now banned in California and Washington, DC.
Recent VPC accomplishments include:
- Our ongoing Concealed Carry Killers project and 2017 study Silencers: A Threat to Public Safety played a pivotal role in stopping pro-gun efforts on Capitol Hill to ease civilian access to firearm silencers and enact a lax national concealed carry law.
- We helped Connecticut and New York State pass some of the nation’s toughest gun violence prevention legislation, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, just months after the tragedy in Newtown. Now, we are helping states defend these laws from legal challenges by the gun industry and NRA.
- Our report When Men Murder Women — released each year for Domestic Violence Awareness Month — focuses attention on our nation’s domestic violence epidemic and the role guns play in turning domestic abuse into domestic homicide. This widely cited report has led to new laws and policies to protect women and families. The 2013 edition of the study spurred an investigative series by the South Carolina Post and Courier on the deadly toll domestic violence inflicts on women in the state that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2015.
- Through our Concealed Carry Killers database, we document the growing number of non-self defense killings committed by concealed handgun permit holders, including 34 mass shootings since May 2007.
- With our Blood Money studies, we exposed for the first time, and continue to reveal, the gun industry’s deep financial support of the NRA, showing the NRA to be nothing more than a gun industry trade organization that only masquerades as a shooting sports foundation.
- We publish numerous annual reports with accompanying public education campaigns detailing the disproportionate effect of lethal firearms violence on African Americans, Hispanics, and youth.
- We publish ongoing research finding that private citizens only rarely use guns in self-defense.
How We Use Our Resources
The Violence Policy Center uses its resources in support of: original research; advocacy in support of effective gun violence prevention measures on the local, state, and federal levels; public and policymaker education; and, collaboration with advocates and organization working to end gun violence.
To see the VPC’s most recently filed Form 990, please click here.
To see the VPC’s most recent independent financial audit, please click here.
To see the VPC’s profile on Charity Navigator, please click here.
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