Gun violence in the USA is a human rights crisis. Over half a million-people died of gunshot injuries between 2001 and 2017 and a further 1.3 million people sustained firearm-related injuries. This report focuses on the survivors of gun violence – many of whom experience what can be life-threatening and life-changing injuries. Being shot is a violent and traumatic event that can leave the survivor with lifelong effects and debilitating pain; this research examines the challenges that gunshot survivors experience when trying to access health care and other forms of support following their injury. It also evaluates the effectiveness of existing federal and state mechanisms for compensation.
The research considers federal and state annual reports on victim compensation programmes, academic studies that quantified the costs of treatment for firearm injuries and information from public record requests that Amnesty International filed with relevant state authorities. Quantitative data, particularly around health costs and victim compensation payments, disaggregated for firearm injury, is not easily or uniformly available in the USA. Where this existed, Amnesty International has included an analysis of quantitative data and secondary literature to supplement the conclusions and main themes that emerged from its discussions with survivors. Survivors are often hesitant to participate in research due to numerous sensitivities associated with their circumstances.
In compiling this report, Amnesty International interviewed 25 gunshot survivors as well as dozens of carers, health workers, public health experts, social workers, advocates and activists in three states – Miami, Tampa, Baltimore and New Orleans – with differing levels of gun violence and different approaches to providing remedy and reparation to survivors. In March 2019, Amnesty International sent the authorities responsible for the victim compensation programmes in Louisiana, Maryland, and Florida letters informing them of the summary findings of this report and asking specific questions. In June 2019, Amnesty International sent relevant authorities a summary of the findings of this report, requesting their response. Where authorities have responded, and institutions shared information with Amnesty International, it has been included in the text of this report.