Best Defense of Democracy

The Pacem in Terris Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence educates people about the cost and consequences to our society of gun violence.  It is based on the conviction that a society that spends more on preparing for violence than on education is approaching spiritual death, that a well-informed and active citizenry is the best defense of democracy, freedom and justice, and that gun violence and its glorification by our society undermines the moral fabric that holds us together.

Pacem's Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence seeks to inform society about gun violence and to motivate people to engage in actions that lead to a society that reflects life-affirming values.

One of the core tenets of our Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is based on Thomas Jefferson's "The best defense of a democracy is an informed electorate." Given the complexity of issues and the overwhelming amount of information about the issues of the day, Pacem in Terris sponsored a Gun Violence Data Visualization Contest. To see some of the winning entries in this initiative, see here.” 

Below are some of the relevant facts and figures concerning the challenges and opportunities of gun violence in our society.

Our Gun Violence Fact Sheet is a more extensive version of the below.

Gun Violence Facts

Land of the Free/Home of the Guns:

  • Since 1968, more Americans have been killed by gunfire than have died in all of the wars in all of American history.
  • Each year, almost 100,000 people in America are injured or killed with a gun.
  • Last year, 31,593 people died from gun violence. 66,769 people were injured. Of those who were shot unintentionally, 592 were killed and 18,610 survived. 
  • There are currently about 270 million privately owned firearms in the United States.
  • U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined.  The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher.
  • In the U.S., a mass killing—defined as having 4 victims, not including the killer—occurs once every 2 weeks. Recent ones include: Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Gabby Giffords shooting, the Aurora Theater shooting, Sandy Hook, and Santa Monica.

The High Cost:

  • Gun violence impacts society in countless ways: medical costs, costs of the criminal justice system, security precautions such as metal detectors, and reductions in quality of life because of fear of gun violence. These impacts are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
  • $12 billion per year is paid just by government health programs, court proceedings and insurance costs for gun shot wounds and deaths in the United States.

Vested Interests:

  • $14 million: Amount of money the National Rifle Association spent during the 2012 election in an attempt to defeat President Obama, according to The New York Times
  • 17-to-1 Ratio of gun-rights lobbyist spending to gun control lobbyist spending in 2011, according to and an analysis by Republic Report. Gun rights groups spent $4,212,996; gun control groups spent $240,000.

Loopholes and Loose Laws:

  • There are 58,344 federally licensed gun dealers in the U.S.—more than all American Post Offices, McDonalds, and Starbucks combined. There are 120 gun dealers in just Delaware.
  • Nine out of 10 Americans agree that we should have universal background checks, including three out of four NRA members.
  • Since the Brady Law was initially passed, about 2 million people have been blocked from purchasing a gun, due to a background check.  About half of those were felons.
  • However, guns can be sold in the United States without a background check to screen out criminals or the mentally ill. Over 40% of gun acquisitions occur in the secondary market—such as at gun shows, or through private sellers—which equates to no background check at a federally licensed dealer.

Guns, Gender, and Youth:

  • U.S. women’s firearm death rate is 12 times higher than the combined rate of 22 other populous, high-income countries.
  • The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the risk of homicide for women by 500%.
  • 54% of women killed by guns are killed by intimate partners or family members, and 57% of mass shootings involve domestic violence.
  • In states that require a background check for a handgun sale, 38% fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners.
  • Nearly one in four American teens has witnessed a shooting.
  • In 2007, more pre-school-aged children (85) were killed by guns than police officers were killed in the line of duty.
  • 48% of 2013 gun-related deaths have been younger people, (aged 30 or under).

Popular Myths Debunked:

  • “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people!” As we are often reminded, guns do not kill people but clearly people who kill others are most likely to do so with a gun. There are five times as many deaths from gun assaults as from knife assaults.
  • “Guns are needed for the sake of self-protection!” Though pro-arms groups like the NRA promote gun ownership for self-protection, a firearm in the household is more likely to be used on a family member than an intruder.
  • In addition, every time a gun injures or kills in self-defense, one is used:
    • 11 times for a completed or attempted suicide
    • 7 times in a criminal assault or homicide
    • 4 times in an unintentional shooting death or injury

World-Wide Weapons:

  • An international arms trade treaty recently passed through the UN, an unprecedented victory for the safe regulation of weapons trade around the globe. The U.S. did not sign it.
  • Gun Homicides (average annually):
    • Less than 50: Japan
    • Less than 150:  Germany, Italy, France, etc.
    • Less than 200:  Canada
    • More than 10,000: USA
    • In 2010, roughly 70% of U.S. homicides were by gun whereas in Britain, including Northern Ireland, only 9% were by gun.­
    • The U.S. is ranked #1 in the world for civilian gun ownership, with 88.8 guns per 100 people. (By contrast, the rate in Japan is ­­­­0.6 )

Major problems and trends with gun violence today:

  • Mass shootings have been on the rise since 1999 (Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tuscon Arizona, the Aurora theater shooting, Sandy Hook, Santa Monica etc.)
  • There are many loopholes in gun regulation that enable felons, substance abusers, and the mentally-ill to acquire firearms without undergoing a background check.
  • Gun control policy is largely left to individual states, meaning that the strictness of gun-regulation and distribution can vary drastically across state borders.
  • Racial discrimination: although African Americans are less than 13% of the U.S. population, they made up 57% of the gun-related deaths in 2010. By comparison, white Americans make up about 72% of the U.S. population, but were only 41% of the victims in 2010. Young black men die of gun homicide at a rate eight times that of young white men.
  • Although most people killed in gun violence are people of color (for example, African-Americans make up 33 percent of the Chicago population, but about 70 percent of the murder victims), recent gun violence massacres are predominately white-on-white (for example, Sandy Hook, Columbine, 2011 Gabby Giffords/Tucson shooting, Aurora theater shooting, etc.).

Underlying Enablers of Gun Violence:

  • Powerful lobby groups like the NRA that block stricter gun-safety legislation
  • A culture of fear that creates an imaginary need for protection against some unknown threat.
  • Sensationalist media that makes celebrities out of mass-shooters
  • Institutionalized poverty which pushes members of poorest classes into criminal activity
  • Mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline


  • Universal background checks: legislation that requires states to conduct a background check on all gun purchases and closes the loopholes that allow people to purchase guns at gun shows, online, or through private sellers.
  • De-stigmatizing mental health: it is thoroughly unfair to blame gun violence on the mentally ill, but mentally-ill persons coupled with substance abuse doubles the risk factor for gun violence. Thus, it is important for us to take away the stigma on mental illness, to educate ourselves on the subject, and to provide resources and care for those with mental health problems.
  • Challenging the culture of fear:  although America has more guns and looser restrictions than most other developed nations, states such as Canada and Israel have similar rates of gun-ownership with nowhere near the level of gun violence.  It is difficult to pinpoint the cause of this oddity, but one factor may be the US’s “culture of fear” that is seen in our media. When the news is dominated by sensationalist reports of violence, it skews the public’s perception of what is a probable threat to the masses.

Links to Sources of Gun Violence Information:

Delawares Gun Violence Scorecard

13 out of 100 points

Delaware has weak gun laws that help feed the illegal gun market and allow the sale of guns without background checks, according to the Brady Campaign. In the organization's 2011 state scorecards released for all 50 states, Delaware earned just 13 points out of a total of 100.

  1. Curb Firearm Trafficking (Maximum 35 Points)
  2. Gun Dealer Regulations (Maximum 12 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
State license required 2 2
Record keeping and retention 2 2
Report records to state, and state retains records 2 0
Mandatory theft reporting of all firearms 2 0
At least 1 store security precaution required 2 0
Inspections by police allowed 2 2
Total 12 6
  1. Limit Bulk Purchases (Maximum 5 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
One handgun per month, no exceptions 5
OR One handgun per month, 1 or more exception 3 0
Total 0
  1. Record Retention (Maximum 5 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
All Firearms 5
OR Handguns Only 4 0
Total 0
  1. Crime Gun Identification (Maximum 10 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Ballistic Fingerprinting 5 0
Require microstamping on semi-auto handguns 5 0
Total 10 0
  1. Report Lost/Stolen Guns (Maximum 3 Points)
  2. Strengthen Brady Background Checks (Maximum 40 Points)
  3. Background checks on all gun sales (Maximum 17 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Mandatory reporting by firearm owners /td> 3 0


Category Possible Points Points
All Firearms (includes gun shows) 17
OR Handguns Only (includes gun shows) 10 0
Closed Gun Show Loophole 7 0
OR Background checks on long guns at gun shows 5 0
  1. Permit to Purchase (Maximum 21 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
All firearms 3 0
Safety training/testing required 3 0
License to possess 3 0
Extend three-day limit for background checks 3 0
Permit required for ammunition purposes 3 0
Fingerprinting required 3 0
Permit process involves law enforcement 3 0
Total 21 0
  1. Ammunition Regulations (Maximum 2 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Ammunition Purchaser Records Kept/Vendor License Required 2 0

III. Ban Assault Weapons (Maximum 10 Points)

  1. Assault Weapons Ban (Maximum 5 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
1-feature test 5
OR 2-feature test 3
OR 2-feature test on assault pistols only 1 0
  1. Large Capacity Magazine Ban (Maximum 5 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
More than 10 rounds 5
OR More than 15 rounds 3 0
  1. Child Safety (Maximum 7 Points)
  2. Child Safety Locks (Maximum 5 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Integrated locks sold on all handguns (Childproof) 5
OR External locks sold with all handguns 3 0
Standards on all external locks 1 0
  1. Child Access Prevention (Maximum 2 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Ages 16/17 and under 2
OR Ages 14/15 and under 1 1
  1. Guns in Public Places and Local Control (Maximum 8 Points)
  2. No Guns in Workplace (Maximum 2 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Employers not forced to allow firearms in parking lots 2 2
  1. No Guns on College Campuses (Maximum 2 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Colleges are not forced to allow firearms on campus 2 2
  1. Not A CCW Shall Issue State (Maximum 2 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Law enforcement discretion when issuing CCW permits 2 2
  1. No State Preemption (Maximum 2 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Local control of firearm regulation 2
OR Some local control of regulations 1 0
  1. Extra Credit/Demerit
  2. Extra Credit (2 Points)
Category Possible Points Points
Disarm Prohibited Handgun Possessors 2 0
  1. Demerit
Category Possible Points Points
Gag Rule on Doctors (-2 Points) -2 0
No permit required for CCW (-2 Points) -2 0
Grand total for Delaware: 13

The above is from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun ViolenceTo see your State's evaluation, go here.


Local Peace Projects

Host Children's Peace Art

peace art opening 4

The Pacem in Terris Children’s Peace Art Exhibition is an opportunity for all of us to learn from our younger citizens what the world should be like. As part of the Pacem in Terris 50th Anniversary in 2017 we are “going back to our roots”— the initial innocence of youth, its vision and idealism— as a way of looking forward to the next 50 years.

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