Established in 1988, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) is a Washington-based organization that conducts research on violence associated with firearms. In 1994, the Center joined with the Firearms Policy Project in supporting more stringent controls on the possession of handguns. Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Center, has commented that few people have a true understanding of the gun control issue, arguing that the success of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun organizations stems in part from the lack of knowledge gun control organizations have about the issue. Therefore, the organization acts as an alternative source of information to pro-gun groups. The VPC has criticized the premier gun control organization, Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI), for accepting the NRA's major premise that not handguns, but handguns in the wrong hands, result in violence. The Center considers the NRA's well-known saying, "Guns don't kill, people do," as virtually identical to HCI's watchword, "Working to keep handguns out of the wrong hands."
According to the VPC, keeping handguns from the "wrong hands," in other words, from minors, criminals, alcoholics, drug users, and the mentally incompetent, does not address the major causes of gun violence. The organization holds that a major difficulty with guns derives from their use in suicides and homicides involving family members and acquaintances. The simple availability of firearms leads to violence. As Sugarmann has stated, "the 'right hands' have a nasty tendency to turn into the 'wrong hands.'" The Center has criticized the standard sorts of gun control measures advocated by the HCI, such as waiting periods. The VPC rejects the possible efficacy of other gun control measures, such as licensing, registration, safety training, or mandatory sentencing for those who use firearms in the commission of a crime. Legal handgun possession leads to major suffering without providing their owners with any significant self-defense advantage.
In effect, the VPC agrees with the NRA that waiting periods and background checks have extremely limited consequences for handgun violence, and that banning multiple handgun sales to the same person and mandatory trigger locks would have minimal influence on the reduction of violence associated with firearms. However, the agreement ends when the Center strongly advocates the banning of handguns, which the organization contends is the only way to deal with the problems of guns so widely available in the United States. According to the VPC, guns are a public health problem associated with a system of distribution that has allowed weapons to pervade society.
The organization distributes literature on such subjects as assault weapons; strategies to reduce firearms violence; various studies