About the VPC

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt national educational organization that 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 advocates for effective gun violence prevention policies.

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 2021, nearly 49,000 Americans died from guns 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 exploits 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, faced with a long-term decline in household gun ownership resulting from the saturation of the primary market of white males, the firearms industry is targeting women, communities of color, and even grade-school children as new 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.

Our Approach

RESEARCH: Each year, 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 reduce firearms 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 and advocates 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, as well as numerous articles and op-eds.

Kristen Rand, Government Affairs Director.
Kristen Rand serves as government affairs director for the Violence Policy Center, overseeing its legislative agenda 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 the organization’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.
Marty Langley serves as the VPC’s 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. He also oversees the VPC’s websites.

Terra Wiens, MPH, Public Health Analyst.
Ms. Wiens conducts research on the public health impact of gun violence, analyzing public health and crime data to assess the effect of firearms violence on specific populations and general morbidity and mortality in the U.S.

Jamie Benedi, Investigative Analyst.
Mr. Benedi conducts research on the firearms industry and related issues.

Georgia Seltzer, Development and Communications Manager.
Ms. Seltzer manages the VPC’s development program, which includes individual giving, grants and foundation support, and major gifts. Additionally, Ms. Seltzer oversees components of the VPC’s public communications efforts.

The Violence Policy Center is governed by a 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.

Our Achievements

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 policies, and diminished the power of the firearms industry and gun lobby.

The VPC was the first gun violence prevention organization to focus on the public safety threat posed by semiautomatic assault weapons — and continues to be a leader in the fight to ban these weapons of war. Our study More Gun Dealers Than Gas Stations resulted in federal policy changes that reduced the number of gun dealers across the country from more than 250,000 to fewer than 52,000 today. Our work resulted in the shutdown of a program administered by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that spent millions of taxpayer dollars to restore the ability of convicted, often violent, felons to purchase and possess firearms. Our study Gun Shows in America: Tupperware Parties for Criminals was the first to focus public attention on the role gun shows play in criminal gun trafficking, leading to calls for universal background checks. 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, New Jersey, and Washington, DC.

Recent VPC accomplishments include:

In 2023, we worked with state advocates in Illinois to pass a strong and effective assault weapons ban. As in other states, the VPC provided technical advice and assistance to state policymakers and advocates to ensure the legislation would work effectively and address potential industry efforts to undermine the law’s impact.

The VPC has been working in a diverse coalition of organizations to urge the Biden Administration to reverse a Trump Administration rule that transferred control of gun exports from the State Department to the Commerce Department. The measure makes it easier for terrorists, human rights abusers, and criminal gangs to access U.S.-supplied guns and ammunition. In 2023, the Commerce Department announced a halt to firearms exports to conduct a review of current procedures and consider policy changes to reduce the export of military-style firearms.

In January 2022, the VPC exposed the launch of a marketing campaign by gunmaker WEE1 Tactical for the JR-15, an AR-15 assault rifle specifically designed for children. The widespread negative publicity in reaction to the gun resulted in California passing a law banning the marketing of guns to children, U.S. Senators calling for a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation, and the gunmaker’s website being reduced to a query form. The VPC tracked WEE1 Tactical’s activities throughout the year and in January 2023 we revealed that the company was planning to return with a ‘kinder, gentler’ marketing campaign. The VPC’s research again received widespread press coverage. A federal bill was soon introduced to ban the marketing of guns to children and in May 2023, spurred by the VPC’s work, Illinois banned gun marketing that targets youth or would promote illegal paramilitary activity.

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.

VPC research first detailed how in the wake of the saturation of the primary market of white males, the gun lobby and firearms industry have joined together in a coordinated effort targeting communities of color and America’s children as new markets for gun sales.

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, policies, and public education campaigns 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 37 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 original studies with accompanying public education campaigns detailing how gun violence impacts all Americans, including annual reports on the disproportionate impact of lethal firearms violence on Black and Latino Americans.

We publish ongoing research demonstrating how rarely guns are used by private citizens in justifiable homicides and non-lethal 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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