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What research shows on the effectiveness of gun-control laws

research paper on gun laws

“When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down. When the law expired, mass shootings tripled.”

— President Biden, addressing the mass shooting in Uvalde, Tex. , May 24

“There are, quote, ‘real’ gun laws in New York. There are ‘real’ gun laws in California. I hate to say this, but there are more people who were shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas.”

— Tex. Gov. Greg Abbott (R), on the mass shooting , May 25

Democrats and Republicans will forever argue about the effectiveness of gun laws to prevent mass shootings. But what does the latest academic research show?

The short answer is that many proposed laws probably would not have much impact on curbing the mass shootings that dominate the news. But they could lessen their severity, and might also bring down overall gun violence.

Despite their notoriety, mass shootings — as defined by criminologists — generally do not happen often enough for detailed data analysis. Moreover, there are at least eight databases of mass shootings , including one maintained by The Washington Post , with different definitions and parameters. An upcoming paper for the Justice Department, written by a team led by James Alan Fox of Northeastern University , Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Michael Rocque of Bates College , attempts to craft a common definition: A mass public shooting is any event in which four or more individuals, not including the assailant(s), were killed by gunfire in a public setting within a 24-hour period. Mass shootings associated with criminal activity are excluded.

Under this definition, there were three or four mass shootings a year through most of the 2010s, but then the number spiked to seven in 2017, 10 in 2018 and eight in 2019, according to the database, provided to the Fact Checker by Duwe.

The team, drawing on the existing databases and supplemental research, found that “the number of mass public shootings has indeed increased over the past four and one-half years, particularly over the past decade. However, even at its peak in 2018, the number of such incidents has not surpassed ten in any year, and often has been much lower.” Moreover, some of the increase can be linked to growth in population. The incident count tripled since the mid-1970s but the rate per 100 million of population increased by a factor of two.

Fox told the Fact Checker that most mass shooters are very determined individuals and that even with an average of seven or eight mass shootings a year, new laws might only reduce the number by one a year. But he said stricter gun control laws would be “the right thing to do for a different reason” — they might help reduce overall gun violence.

While it is generally correct that states with tougher gun laws tend to have lower gun fatality rates, those rankings change when suicides — which make up about 60 percent of gun deaths — are excluded. Rural areas, which may have less restrictive gun laws, have a lot of suicides of older single men who become lonely. Access to guns is believed to triple the risk of suicide, according to a 2014 study. But Fox said he would exclude suicides from such calculations. “There is a big difference between homicide and suicide,” he said. “The victim of a homicide does not choose to be killed.”

Here’s a summary of key research on the effectiveness of various laws, either at the federal or state level.

Assault weapons ban

In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines (LCMs), defined as those that could hold more than 10 rounds. The law — which grandfathered in an estimated 1.5 million assault weapons and 25 million LCMs already owned by Americans — was in place for 10 years until Congress let it lapse.

Even supporters of the law have acknowledged that it was riddled with loopholes, such as allowing copycat weapons to be sold, that limited its effectiveness. Some research, however, suggests the ban became more effective toward the end of the 10-year period because it helped cap and then reduce the supply of assault weapons and LCMs.

Biden claimed that mass shooting deaths tripled after the law expired. He appears to be relying on a study of mass shooting data from 1981 to 2017, published in 2019 in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery by a team led by Charles DiMaggio , a professor of surgery at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. That group found that an assault weapons ban would have prevented 314 out of 448, or 70 percent, of the mass shooting deaths during the years when the ban was not in effect. But the data used in that study has come under attack by some analysts.

Meanwhile, Louis Klarevas , a research professor at Teachers College at Columbia University, studied high-fatality mass shootings (involving six or more people) for his 2016 book “ Rampage Nation .” He said that compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent and that the number of people dying because of mass shootings fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers in the next 10-year period rose sharply — a 183 percent increase in mass shootings and a 239 percent increase in deaths. His analysis, however, has been criticized by some experts for being heavily impacted by the final year of his data series.

Correlation does not necessarily equal causation, moreover. Fox, in a 2016 study co-written with Emma Fridel of Northeastern University, noted that “rather than assault weapons, semiautomatic handguns are the weapons of choice for most mass shooters.” (About 70 percent of mass public shootings after 1992 relied exclusively or primarily on semiautomatic handguns.) They wrote that “the frequency of incidents was virtually unchanged during the decade when the ban was in effect” and that “not only were there countless assault weapons already on the street, but also assailants had a variety of other powerful firearms at their disposal.”

The new mass-shooting database shows that there were 31 mass shootings in the decade before the 1994 law, 31 in the 10 years the law was in force (Sept. 13, 1994 to Sept. 12, 2004) and 47 in the 10 years after it expired. As noted, some of that increase stems from population growth.

Large-capacity magazines

While the assault weapons ban may not have reduced the number of mass shootings, there is some evidence that the 1994 law’s restrictions on LCMs may have been effective in reducing the death toll.

Christopher S. Koper , an associate professor of criminology at George Mason University, said in a 2020 study that LCMs enable rapid spray fire that gives shooters the ability to wound higher numbers of victims in public settings. So restrictions on LCMs can have an effect.

“Data on mass shooting incidents suggest these magazine restrictions can potentially reduce mass shooting deaths by 11 percent to 15 percent and total victims shot in these incidents by one quarter, likely as upper bounds,” Koper wrote, adding, “It is reasonable to argue that the federal ban could have prevented some of the recent increase in persons killed and injured in mass shootings had it remained in place.”

Moreover, a number of studies of state-level bans on LCMs, such as by Mark Gius of Quinnipiac University and by Klarevas , indicate that such laws are associated with a significantly lower number of fatalities in mass shootings. Fox co-wrote a 2020 study of state gun laws that concluded that bans on LCMs are associated with 38 percent fewer fatalities and 77 percent fewer nonfatal injuries when a mass shooting occurred.

But even states such as California, which outlaws LCMs that hold more than 10 bullets, have suffered from mass shootings that involved LCMs. When Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015 with legally purchased guns and rifles, four high-capacity magazines were found, perhaps holding as many as 30 rounds. Many mass shooters also acquire a large inventory of weapons, making reloading less necessary.

Universal background checks

There is evidence that universal background checks — including between private parties — could have an impact on mass shootings. State laws requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, which includes a background check on all purchases, are associated with 60 percent lower odds of a mass public shooting occurring, Fox’s 2020 study found.

But most mass murderers legally purchase the firearms they use in their killing sprees. Salvador Ramos, identified by police as the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, purchased two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles and ammunition as soon as he turned 18. He had never been convicted of a felony or had a history of criminal violence, so there was no prohibition against him buying the weapons.

The current system also fails. In 2015, Dylann Roof killed nine people with a .45-caliber Glock pistol that held 13 rounds at a historic African American church in Charleston, S.C. Roof legally purchased his gun from a store, but the FBI said he should have failed the background check because he had been charged with possessing Suboxone without a prescription. However, because of clerical mistakes, the FBI said the examiner did not get hold of the report before the three-day waiting period ended, and so the store went through with the purchase.

This three-day period has become known as the “Charleston loophole” that some lawmakers have sought to close. But it’s possible Roof might have passed the background check if it had been done correctly. The FBI statement incorrectly referred to a felony drug charge, but it was a misdemeanor for possession; he did not admit to being an addict. The FBI later said Roof would have been denied a gun based on an “inference of current use.”

Firearms prohibitions based on mental health

Anyone who slaughters innocent people with firearms in theory would be expected to have mental health issues. But most people who have mental health issues are not killers; in fact, they are more likely to be victims of gun violence. Nearly one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness , according to the National Institute of Mental Health , while epidemiological research suggests that nearly half the U.S. population may experience some symptoms of mental illness in their lifetime.

That makes it difficult to know when to draw the line, especially because mental illness is not a predictor of violence. “Databases that track gun homicides, such as the National Center for Health Statistics, similarly show that fewer than 5 percent of the 120,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness,” noted Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth MacLeish of Vanderbilt University in a 2016 study . They said that other factors, such as alcohol and drug use, may increase the risk of turning toward violent crime even more. A history of childhood abuse is also considered a predictive risk factor.

Red-flag (“extreme risk”) laws — which generally allow police to take firearms away from people who exhibit concerning behavior — have been passed in 19 states and the District of Columbia, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun-control laws. Between 1999 and 2021, at least 16,857 extreme risk petitions were filed, the group says. Florida, which passed such a law after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, has used it 6,000 times since then. A 2019 study found that as many as 21 mass shootings might have been prevented in California after the state in 2016 implemented such a law.

Yet New York’s red-flag law was not invoked against Payton Gendron, the suspect in the racist attack in Buffalo this month that left 10 people dead. He had said in school he planned to commit a murder-suicide and was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. Police chose not to seek a red-flag order, apparently because he did not name a specific target. New York’s governor has since signed an executive order seeking to strengthen the law.

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May 26, 2022

The Science Is Clear: Gun Control Saves Lives

By enacting simple laws that make guns safer and harder to get, we can prevent killings like the ones in Uvalde and Buffalo

By The Editors

Black hand gun

Adam Gault/Getty Images

Editor’s Note (5/24/23): One year ago, on May 24, 2022, 19 students and two teachers were fatally shot at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex . This piece by Scientific American's editors presents the case that simple gun laws can prevent future tragedies.

Some editorials simply hurt to write. This is one.

At least 19 elementary school children and two teachers are dead, many more are injured, and a grandmother is fighting for her life in Uvalde, Tex., all because a young man, armed with an AR-15-style rifle, decided to fire in a school.

By now, you know these facts: This killing spree was the largest school shooting since Sandy Hook. Law enforcement couldn’t immediately subdue the killer. In Texas, it’s alarmingly easy to buy and openly carry a gun . In the immediate hours after the shooting, President Biden demanded reform , again. Legislators demanded reform , again. And progun politicians turned to weathered talking points: arm teachers and build safer schools.

But rather than arm our teachers (who have enough to do without keeping that gun away from students and having to train like law enforcement to confront an armed attacker), rather than spend much-needed school dollars on more metal detectors instead of education, we need to make it harder to buy a gun. Especially the kind of weapons used by this killer and the white supremacist who killed 10 people grocery shopping in Buffalo . And we need to put a lasting stop to the political obstruction of taxpayer-funded research into gun-related injuries and deaths.

The science is abundantly clear: More guns do not stop crime . Guns kill more children each year than auto accidents. More children die by gunfire in a year than on-duty police officers and active military members. Guns are a public health crisis , just like COVID, and in this, we are failing our children, over and over again.

In the U.S., we have existing infrastructure that we could easily emulate to make gun use safer: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . Created by Congress in 1970, this federal agency is tasked, among other things, with helping us drive a car safely. It gathers data on automobile deaths. It’s the agency that monitors and studies seat belt usage . While we track firearm-related deaths, no such safety-driven agency exists for gun use.

During the early 1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to explore gun violence as a public health issue. After studies tied having a firearm to increased homicide risk , the National Rifle Association took action , spearheading the infamous Dickey Amendment, diverting gun research dollars and preventing federal funding from being used to promote gun control. For more than 20 years, research on gun violence in this country has been hard to do.

What research we have is clear and grim. For example, in 2017, guns overtook 60 years of cars as the biggest injury-based killer of children and young adults (ages one to 24) in the U.S. By 2020, about eight in every 100,000 people died of car crashes. About 10 in every 100,000 people died of gun injuries.

While cars have become increasingly safer (it’s one of the auto industry’s main talking points in marketing these days), the gun lobby has thwarted nearly all attempts to make it harder to fire a weapon. With federal protection against some lawsuits , the financial incentive of a giant tort payout to make guns safer is virtually nonexistent.

After the Uvalde killings, the attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton , said he’d “rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained so that they can respond when something like this happens.” Sen. Ted Cruz emphasized “armed law enforcement on the campus.” They are two of many conservatives who see more guns as the key to fighting gun crime. They are wrong.

A study comparing gun deaths the U.S. to other high-income countries in Europe and Asia tells us that our homicide rate in teens and young adults is 49 times higher. Our firearm suicide rate is eight times higher. The U.S. has more guns than any of the countries in the comparison.

As we previously reported , in 2015, assaults with a firearm were 6.8 times more common in states that had the most guns, compared to the least. More than a dozen studies have revealed that if you had a gun at home, you were twice as likely to be killed as someone who didn’t. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health tells us that states with higher gun ownership levels have higher rates of homicide . Data even tells us that where gun shops or gun dealers open for business, killings go up . These are but a few of the studies that show the exact opposite of what progun politicians are saying. The science must not be ignored.

Science points to laws that would work to reduce shootings, to lower death. Among the simplest would be better permitting laws with fewer loopholes. When Missouri repealed its permit law, gun-related killings increased by 25 percent . Another would be to ban people who are convicted of violent crime from buying a gun. In California, before the state passed such a law, people convicted of crimes were almost 30 percent more likely to be arrested again for a gun or violent crime than those who, after the law, couldn’t buy a gun.

Such laws, plus red flag laws and those taking guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and people who abuse alcohol, would lower our gun violence rate as a nation. But it would require elected officials to detach themselves from the gun lobby. There are so many issues to consider when voting, but in this midterm election year, we believe that protection from gun violence is one that voters could really advance. Surveys routinely show that gun control measures are extremely popular with the U.S. population.

In the meantime, there is some hope. Congress restored funding for gun-related research in 2019, and there are researchers now looking at ways to reduce gun deaths. But it’s unclear if this change in funding is permanent. And what we’ve lost is 20 years of data on gun injuries, death, safety measures and a score of other things that could make gun ownership in this country safer.

Against all this are families whose lives will never be the same because of gun violence. Who must mourn children and adults lost in domestic violence, accidental killings and mass shootings that are so common, we are still grieving one when the next one occurs.

We need to become the kind of country that looks at guns for what they are: weapons that kill. And treat them with the kind of respect that insists they be harder to get and safer to use.

And then we need to become the kind of country that says the lives of children are more valuable than the right to weapons that have killed them, time and again. Since Columbine. Since Sandy Hook. Since always.

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Reducing gun violence: Stanford scholars tackle the issue

After 19 children and two teachers were slaughtered by a gunman at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, many Americans are asking, yet again, how to prevent future acts of senseless violence from occurring. What gun laws need to be changed? Why is it so difficult to pass regulations? How can Second Amendment rights be balanced with firearm safety? 

Stanford scholars have been studying these issues from a range of perspectives, including law, politics, economics, and medicine. Here are some of their findings.

Update: May 25, 2022: This story was originally published on Feb. 26, 2018, and has been updated to include new content.

Causes, impacts of gun violence

Uncovering the causes of gun violence has been a challenge, in part because research is limited by federal legislation that constrains research funding on the issue. Scholar Nigam Shah at the Stanford School of Medicine has written about how this has affected empirical study. But that has not deterred scholars from examining its impacts. David Studdert, also at the School of Medicine, has studied the devastating consequences of gun violence, particularly the risks it poses to public health.  

Maya Rossin-Slater, an associate professor of medicine and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), has also looked at the long-term impact of gun violence, specifically among American children who experienced a shooting at their school. Rossin-Slater found that they have higher rates of absenteeism, lower high school and college graduation rates, and by their mid-twenties, earn lower incomes.

Below is some of that research. 

research paper on gun laws

Californians living with handgun owners more than twice as likely to die by homicide, study finds

Residents who don’t own a handgun but live with someone who does are significantly more likely to die by homicide compared with those in gun-free homes, research shows.

research paper on gun laws

New study of gun violence in schools identifies long-term harms

Research from SIEPR’s Maya Rossin-Slater finds that students exposed to school shootings face “lasting, persistent” adversity in their educational and long-term economic outcomes.

Shirin Sinnar

Shirin Sinnar on the Buffalo shooting, hate crimes, and domestic terrorism

In the wake of the Buffalo shooting, Stanford Law School’s Shirin Sinnar discusses the scale of white supremacist violence in the U.S. and the rise of hate crimes.

research paper on gun laws

Disconnect: The gap between gun violence and research in numbers

Gun violence is much discussed but little studied, largely due to federal decisions governing research funding. A new analysis highlights just how big the gap between the violence and our knowledge of it is. The answer? It’s huge.

research paper on gun laws

Supporting students exposed to school shootings

Maya Rossin-Slater talks about her research into the mental health impact of severe school violence.

research paper on gun laws

Panel discusses how shootings affect those unscathed by bullets

A panel of faculty members at the School of Medicine said shootings can affect the mental health of people close to the violence.

research paper on gun laws

California handgun sales spiked after two mass shootings

In the six weeks after the Newtown and San Bernardino mass shootings, handguns sales jumped in California, yet there is little research on why – or on the implications for public health, according to a Stanford researcher.

research paper on gun laws

Mass shootings: Public face of a much larger epidemic

While mass shootings have become the public face of gun violence, they account for less than 1% of the 40,000 firearm deaths each year.  

research paper on gun laws

Short-term hospital readmissions for gun injuries cost $86 million a year

A study from Stanford researchers has found that readmissions account for 9.5% of the $911 million spent annually on gun-injury hospitalizations.

research paper on gun laws

Supporting children through loss

Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann talks about how to help young people experiencing grief.

research paper on gun laws

Firearm injuries in children, teens costly for U.S. health care system, Stanford study finds

The average cost of initial hospitalization to treat pediatric gun injuries is about $13,000 per patient and has risen in recent decades, a Stanford Medicine study found.

research paper on gun laws

Investigating psychiatric illnesses of mass shooters

Ira Glick and his collaborators studied the psychiatric state of 35 mass shooters in the United States who survived the incidents, which took place between 1982 and 2019.

research paper on gun laws

The silent cost of school shootings

SIEPR’s Maya Rossin-Slater finds the average rate of antidepressant use among youths under age 20 rose by 21 percent in the local communities where fatal school shootings occurred.

Concealed gun

New study analyzes recent gun violence research

Consensus is growing in recent research evaluating the impact of right-to-carry concealed handgun laws, showing that they increase violent crime, despite what older research says.

research paper on gun laws

Handgun ownership associated with much higher suicide risk

Men who own handguns are eight times more likely to die of gun suicides than men who don’t own handguns, and women who own handguns are 35 times more likely than women who don’t.

research paper on gun laws

Advice on how to cope with the threat of school shootings

Victor Carrion offers advice on how families can cope with the stress of school safety.

Reducing gun violence

Many Americans are demanding practical steps to reduce gun crime. One way is to have more stringent gun safety policies, such as legislation requiring guns to be stored safely, more stringent background checks, or as President Biden announced Tuesday, a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. 

Research has shown that states with tighter policies save lives: One study by Stephanie Chao found that states with stricter gun laws have lower rates of gun deaths among children and teenagers, and states with child prevention access laws are linked with fewer gun suicides in this age group.

“If you put more regulations on firearms, it does make a difference,” said Chao, assistant professor of surgery and senior author of the study. “It does end up saving children’s lives.” Her analysis found that states with the strictest laws had a mortality rate of 2.6 per 100,000 and for states with the least strict laws, mortality rate was almost double at 5.0 per 100,000.  

John Donohue portrait

John Donohue: One tragic week with two mass shootings and the uniquely American gun problem

In a Q&A, Stanford Law School gun law expert John J. Donohue III discusses mass shootings in the U.S., the challenges facing police when confronting powerful automatic weapons and the prospect of gun safety laws.

Pistol behind lock and chains symbolic of gun control

Lax state gun laws linked to more child gun deaths

States with strict gun laws have lower rates of gun deaths among children and teenagers, and laws to keep guns away from minors are linked with fewer gun suicides in this age group, a Stanford study found.

hands holding a gun at display desk

Improved gun buyer background checks would impede some mass shootings, Stanford expert says

Stanford Law Professor John Donohue says a background check system that was universal and effectively operated could impede gun acquisition by people who commit mass shootings.

a stack of live round casings

How to solve more gun crimes without spending more money

Simple tweaks to how police process bullet casings could dramatically improve their forensic data.

research paper on gun laws

Reducing civilian firepower would boost police and community safety, Stanford expert says

In addition to restricting the firepower a person can amass, Stanford law Professor John J. Donohue advocates efforts to build trust between communities and law enforcement agencies as a way to enhance both police and citizen safety.

research paper on gun laws

Stricter gun laws reduce child and adolescent gun deaths, Stanford study finds

Laws that keep guns away from young people are especially strongly linked to lower rates of gun suicides in youth.

Gun legislation and policy

For nearly three decades, law Professor John Donohue III has studied what can be done to prevent gun violence in the United States. A lawyer and economist, Donohue explores how law and public policy are connected to gun violence, including how gun laws in the U.S. compare to other countries, as well as how legislation varies across the states, to better understand the effect that has on rates of violence. 

“The U.S. is by far the world leader in the number of guns in civilian hands,” Donohue explained . “The stricter gun laws of other ‘advanced countries’ have restrained homicidal violence, suicides and gun accidents – even when, in some cases, laws were introduced over massive protests from their armed citizens.” 

Here are some of his findings, and other research related to legislating gun safety in the U.S.

Stanford’s John Donohue on guns, mass shootings and the law in the U.S.

On Nov. 30, American students were once again the victims of a school shooting. Stanford law Professor John Donohue discusses the case and gun violence in the U.S.

research paper on gun laws

How U.S. gun control compares to the rest of the world

While deaths from mass shootings are a relatively small part of the overall homicidal violence in America, they are particularly wrenching. The problem is worse in the U.S. than in most other industrialized nations. And it’s getting worse.

research paper on gun laws

4 gun control steps U.S. needs now

John Donohue pens an opinion piece for CNN laying out four steps the United States should take to strengthen gun legislation.

Handgun in waistband

Violent crime increases in right-to-carry states

Stanford Law School Professor John Donohue found that states that adopted right-to-carry concealed handgun laws have experienced a 13 to 15 percent increase in violent crime in the 10 years after enacting those laws.

research paper on gun laws

Another mass shooting: An update on U.S. gun laws

In a Q&A, John Donohue discusses gun safety law and legislative developments.

research paper on gun laws

Stanford GSE holds teach-in on research into gun violence in schools

Education scholars look at the evidence behind policy ideas to address school shootings.

research paper on gun laws

Will Americans ever think differently about guns?

Stanford medicine and law professor David Studdert thinks more public health evidence is needed before cultural attitudes around gun safety and violence will change.

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Study Finds Significant Increase in Firearm Assaults in States that Relaxed Conceal Carry Permit Restrictions

Specific provisions in conceal carry laws may reduce risks associated with civilian gun carrying

A new study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the average rate of assaults with firearms increased an average of 9.5 percent relative to forecasted trends in the first 10 years after 34 states relaxed restrictions on civilians carrying concealed firearms in public.

The study examined two aspects of policy changes: the overall impact on gun violence when states changed their laws for civilians carrying concealed firearms from more to less restrictive ones and, secondly, whether less restrictive measures—known as “shall issue” laws—containing specific safety and screening provisions influenced gun violence outcomes.

The study found that moving to less restrictive laws was associated with a 24 percent increase in the rate of assaults with firearms (12.75 per 100,000) when individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors were eligible to obtain concealed-carry licenses. The researchers also found that states with shall issue laws that had live-fire firearm safety training requirements did not see the significant increases in firearm assaults that were estimated for states that lacked such requirements.

The findings were published online September 20 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“In general, violent crime increased after states loosened concealed carry permitting requirements,” says Mitchel Doucette, PhD, assistant scientist in the Department of Health Policy and Management and director of research methods at the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at the Bloomberg School. “Allowing more individuals to carry concealed guns in public—including some who would have previously been denied carry permits due to prior arrests or restraining orders—can increase inappropriate use of firearms in response to interpersonal conflicts, disputes, or other situations.”

For their analysis, the researchers identified 36 states that weakened their conceal carry permit requirements from 1980 to 2019. They excluded two states—Kansas and Missouri—due to other significant firearm laws changing around the same time.

The researchers used advanced statistical modeling to estimate what would have happened if the laws had not changed. Rates of violent crime for each of the 34 states adopting shall issue concealed carry laws in the analysis were then compared to the best “synthetic controls”—predicted crime rates derived from data from eight states that had restrictive permitting requirements in place throughout the study period.

The study comes against the backdrop of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in July that found New York’s state law requiring that permittees have a proper cause or special need to obtain a concealed carry weapons permit as unconstitutional. Permits will still be required, but the decision narrows New York’s authority to deny them. Similar laws with proper cause requirements in other states, including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, have been revised or are under review.

The study also found a significant average increase in the rate of homicides without a firearm—8.8 percent—in states that relaxed restrictions on civilians carrying concealed firearms in public during the same period.

Currently, 25 states do not require civilians to have a permit to carry a concealed firearm, referred to as permitless carry. The other 25 states require state or local law enforcement to issue civilians a permit to carry a firearm if they meet criteria based on criminal history or training requirements. Most of the states included in the study adopting shall issue laws had previously required a good or proper cause for needing a license to carry a concealed firearm.

For their analysis, the researchers used data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The researchers identified state laws using databases and by reviewing the state’s legislative history.

In what is thought to be the first analysis of its kind, and working with the same set of 34 states that had relaxed their laws from 1980 and 2019, the researchers examined the impact of shall- issue laws with the following provisions: live-firearm training; discretion to deny a permit if an applicant is unstable or immoral; and discretion to deny a permit if an applicant has a history of violence and/or a history of other violent misdemeanor convictions.

The analysis found that states that changed their laws without including one or more of these three provisions had an average increase of 10.26 gun assaults per 100,000 population annually (a 21.6 percent increase) and an additional 1.44 per 100,000 gun homicides (34.9 percent increase) per year compared to their forecasted trends. For states that did not require live- firearm training, the average rate of gun assaults increased to 8.28 per 100,000 people (18.3 percent increase).

The researchers note that requiring live firearm training is an important step but needs further study to understand the impacts of this provision.

“States are actively reevaluating their laws after the Supreme Court’s decision,” says Daniel Webster, ScD, MPH, Bloomberg Professor of American Health and co-director of the Center for Gun Violence Solutions at the Bloomberg School. “Our findings suggest that the more you can make this more objective for states issuing conceal-carry licenses, the better the outcomes in terms of screening potentially dangerous people out.”

“Impact of Changes to Concealed Carry Weapons Laws on Fatal and Non-Fatal Violent Crime, 1980-2019” was written by Mitchell Doucette, Alexander McCourt, Cassandra Crifasi, and Daniel Webster.

The study was supported by the Joyce Foundation.

Media contacts: Caitlin Hoffman at [email protected] and Barbara Benham at [email protected]

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  • v.364; 2019

State gun laws, gun ownership, and mass shootings in the US: cross sectional time series

Paul m reeping.

1 Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA

Magdalena Cerdá

2 Department of Population Health, New York University, Langone School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA

Bindu Kalesan

3 Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

Douglas J Wiebe

4 Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology & Informatics, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Sandro Galea

5 Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA

Charles C Branas

Associated data.

To determine whether restrictiveness-permissiveness of state gun laws or gun ownership are associated with mass shootings in the US.

Cross sectional time series.

Setting and population

US gun owners from 1998-2015.

An annual rating between 0 (completely restrictive) and 100 (completely permissive) for the gun laws of all 50 states taken from a reference guide for gun owners traveling between states from 1998 to 2015. Gun ownership was estimated annually as the percentage of suicides committed with firearms in each state.

Main outcome measure

Mass shootings were defined as independent events in which four or more people were killed by a firearm. Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting System from 1998-2015 were used to calculate annual rates of mass shootings in each state. Mass shooting events and rates were further separated into those where the victims were immediate family members or partners (domestic) and those where the victims had other relationships with the perpetrator (non-domestic).

Fully adjusted regression analyses showed that a 10 unit increase in state gun law permissiveness was associated with a significant 11.5% (95% confidence interval 4.2% to 19.3%, P=0.002) higher rate of mass shootings. A 10% increase in state gun ownership was associated with a significant 35.1% (12.7% to 62.7%, P=0.001) higher rate of mass shootings. Partially adjusted regression analyses produced similar results, as did analyses restricted to domestic and non-domestic mass shootings.


States with more permissive gun laws and greater gun ownership had higher rates of mass shootings, and a growing divide appears to be emerging between restrictive and permissive states.


Despite an increasing frequency of mass shootings in the US and the seemingly disproportionate occurrence of mass shootings in some states and not others, little research has been carried out to understand state level factors that could influence mass shootings. 1 A 2018 report pointed to only three studies that had examined associations between gun laws and mass shooting events. 2 3 4 5 However, testing the effects of state gun laws on the occurrence of mass shootings was not the primary objective of at least one of these studies and the body of evidence they represent was inconclusive in terms of determining the effects of specific state gun laws on mass shootings.

Gun laws have the potential to influence the occurrence of mass shootings. There are limited national gun laws in the US, so the variety of state gun laws that have evolved provides an excellent opportunity for study. Previous studies have found that more permissive statewide gun laws are associated with higher levels of gun homicide and gun suicide, 6 7 8 9 10 although none of these studies considered whether state gun laws in general were associated with mass shootings. Gun ownership is also a potentially key variable to be examined in conjunction with gun laws, given that statewide gun ownership can lead to the implementation of laws, and the implementation of laws can result in changes to statewide gun ownership. Previous studies have found that gun ownership is associated with higher levels of gun assault and gun homicide, although none of these studies considered whether state gun ownership in general was associated with mass shootings. 11 12 13 14 15

How gun laws and gun ownership influence mass shooting events in the US is not fully understood. Therefore, we conducted a cross sectional, time series analysis to broadly examine whether restrictiveness or permissiveness of state gun laws and state gun ownership were associated with mass shootings.

Independent variables

We used the 1998-2015 edition of the Traveler’s Guide to the Firearms Laws of the Fifty States to obtain the independent variable of interest, an annual restrictiveness-permissiveness scale of US gun laws for each state. 16 This report is published annually by legal professionals as a reference guide for gun owners traveling between states and gives a rating between 0 (completely restrictive) and 100 (completely permissive) for the firearm laws of all 50 states. The report considers more than 13 factors in developing the score, including: standard firearms ownership and permit requirements; if semi-automatic, high capacity magazines, machine guns, and suppressors are permitted or restricted; if the firearms laws across the state vary widely; if the state employs a right to self-defense, ability to conceal, ability to open and vehicle carry, ability to conceal carry in state parks, or whether a gun permittee can carry in a restaurant serving alcohol; whether there is a duty to notify law enforcement of permit status; and if one can keep a gun in their vehicle at colleges and K-12 schools (primary and secondary schools).

Gun ownership is not directly surveyed across all 50 states each year in the US. A review of over 24 gun ownership indicators found that the percentage of suicides committed with a firearm was the best measure for estimating gun ownership by state. 17 This has also been verified in several other studies across different regions, 18 19 20 21 22 in which the percentage of suicides committed with a firearm was shown to be highly correlated with the proportion of households reporting gun ownership (across 21 US states r=0.90, 23 across nine census regions r=0.93 24 ). Therefore, we chose to use the percentage of suicides committed with a firearm as a proxy measurement for gun ownership per state per year, which we obtained through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online database, WONDER. 25

We included the following annual measures of state-level characteristics in our analyses: median household income, percent high school graduation, percent female headed households, percent in poverty, percent unemployment, incarceration rate, and percent white. We took all covariates from the American Community Survey at the United States Census Bureau, 26 except incarceration rate, which was obtained from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. 27 We included year in all analyses as a fixed effect to account for other time varying factors.

Outcome variables

We used the Supplementary Homicide Reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting System (1998-2015) to obtain counts of mass shootings by state. 28 We compiled these data in line with the most commonly used definition of a mass shooting: one event in which four or more individuals were killed by a perpetrator using a firearm and the perpetrator themselves did not count toward the total number of victims. 29 30 These mass shooting events were analyzed in total and stratified as to whether the mass shooting was domestic or non-domestic in nature. Domestic mass shootings included instances where the perpetrator committed the act against an immediate family member or partner. Non-domestic mass shootings included all other types of relationships, such as acquaintances, employees, employers, friends, neighbors, strangers, extended family members, and others. Florida was excluded due to non-participation in the Uniform Crime Reporting System program. 31

Descriptive and unadjusted analyses

To understand how state gun law restrictiveness-permissiveness scores changed over the study period, we first estimated an ordinary least squares regression with year as the independent variable and permissiveness score as the dependent variable. We also calculated boxplots of the distribution of restrictiveness-permissiveness scores per state across all years. We stratified states with restrictiveness-permissiveness scores ≤50 (labeling them restrictive) and >50 (labeling them permissive). For comparative purposes, we also used a second stratification that separated states by the median restrictiveness-permissiveness score of ≤79 (restrictive) and >79 (permissive). We compared both stratifications with changes in mass shootings per million people over time. Average state restrictiveness-permissiveness scores and average state gun ownership percentages were calculated across all years of available data. We calculated Pearson correlation coefficients and scatterplots between these state restrictiveness-permissiveness scores and gun ownership percentages, as well as the population-based rates of mass shootings across all states in all years.

Regression analyses

Data were analyzed by using generalized estimating equations with a negative binomial distribution and natural log link to determine the association between state gun laws and annual mass shootings. We chose this regression specification because of estimated variances exceeding conditional means. Repeated cross-sectional time-series measures were calculated as state-per-year. We used an offset of state population and, in the fully adjusted model, median household income, percent high school graduation, percent female headed households, percent in poverty, percent unemployment, incarceration rate, and percent white were included as covariates. These variables were chosen according to suggestions in the Supplementary Homicide Reports documentation, 28 as well as other studies that examined state laws with different firearm outcomes. 6 7 8 9 10 32 We included year as an indicator variable in all analyses. A compound symmetry working correlation structure was assumed due to its best fit of the data as shown by consistently lowest quasi-likelihood under the independence model criterion among the datasets.

Fully adjusted models included all covariates and an indicator variable for year. Partially adjusted models were calculated by including confounders that changed the association between the restrictiveness-permissiveness score and the rate of mass shootings by more than 10%, a common method for confounder selection. 33 34 Partially adjusted models also included an indicator variable for year and avoided inclusion of less influential covariates that added limited information to our models. Restrictiveness-permissiveness score and incarceration rate were lagged by one year to account for reverse causation. Because restrictiveness-permissiveness of state gun laws and state gun ownership were highly and significantly correlated (Pearson’s r 0.79, P<0.001) and interdependent, we did not include them in the same regression models.

Patient and public involvement

Neither patients nor the public were involved in the planning or execution of this study.

The average restrictiveness-permissiveness score of state gun laws showed an overall shift toward permissiveness from 1998-2014; for each additional year that passed, scores on average became more permissive by 0.16 units (P=0.005). From 1998-2014, there were 344 mass shootings incidents as reported by the Uniform Crime Reports. A total of 263 (76.5%) of these events were classified as non-domestic events, the remaining 81 (23.5%) were classified as domestic. The variability of restrictiveness-permissiveness scores over the study period was limited in most states. Massachusetts was found to have the most restrictive and Vermont the most permissive state gun laws over the study period (see supplementary fig 1).

Yearly changes in rates of mass shootings showed that restrictive states, on average, had lower rates of mass shootings compared with permissive states across most years. Figure 1 shows that a growing divergence was noted in 2010 with a decreasing rate of mass shootings in restrictive states and an increasing rate of mass shootings in permissive states. Scatterplots of gun law restrictiveness-permissiveness scores, gun ownership, and rates of mass shooting showed positive and significant correlations between gun ownership and rates of mass shootings (Pearson’s r 0.42, P=0.003), gun law restrictiveness-permissiveness and rates of mass shootings (0.38, P=0.007), and gun law restrictiveness-permissiveness and gun ownership (0.79, P<0.001). Figure 2 shows that on average, more permissive states and states with higher rates of gun ownership had more mass shootings in these unadjusted, bivariate analyses.

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Rates of mass shootings over time in restrictive versus permissive states for a restrictiveness-permissiveness score of 50 (A) and 79 (B). Years 1998-2014 were included because of the lag of the permissiveness score

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Scatterplots of the relations between state rates of mass shootings, gun law restrictiveness-permissiveness scores, and gun ownership

Fully adjusted and partially adjusted analyses of all mass shooting outcomes

Table 1 shows that in fully adjusted models, a 10 unit increase in state gun law permissiveness was associated with a significant 11.5% (95% confidence interval 4.2% to 19.3%, P=0.002) higher rate of mass shootings. A 10% increase in state gun ownership was associated with a significant 35.1% (12.7% to 62.7%, P=0.001) higher rate of mass shootings.

Percent changes in relative rate of mass shootings for every 10 unit change in state gun law permissiveness or state gun ownership

In partially adjusted models, an indicator variable for year was included in all analyses, in addition to only covariates that changed the relation between the exposures of interest (restrictiveness-permissiveness and gun ownership) and mass shootings by greater than 10%. For state gun law restrictiveness-permissiveness, only median income fulfilled this criterion. For state gun ownership, no covariate changed the relation by even 5% so only year was included. Table 1 shows that a 10 unit increase in state permissiveness was associated with a significant 9.2% (95% confidence interval 1.7% to 17.2%, P=0.01) higher rate of mass shootings. A 10% higher state firearm ownership rate was associated with a significant 36.1% (20.1% to 54.2%, P<0.001) higher rate of mass shootings.

Analyses of non-domestic and domestic mass shooting outcomes

Table 2 shows that in the fully adjusted model that was restricted to non-domestic mass shooting outcomes only, for every 10 unit increase in state gun law permissiveness, there was a significant 11.3% (95% confidence interval 2.4% to 20.9%, P=0.01) higher rate of mass shootings. In the partially adjusted model (where only year and median income were included as covariates), there was a significant 8.5% (1.0% to 16.5%, P=0.02) higher rate of mass shootings. For every 10 unit increase in state gun ownership in the fully adjusted model, there was a significant 32.7% (9.1% to 61.4%, P=0.005) higher rate of mass shootings. In the partially adjusted model there was a significant 38.8% (22.4% to 57.3%, P<0.001) higher rate of mass shootings.

Percent changes in relative rate of mass shootings for every 10 unit change in state gun law permissiveness and state gun ownership separated into non-domestic and domestic categories

Table 2 shows that in the fully adjusted model that was restricted to domestic mass shooting outcomes only, for every 10 unit increase in state law permissiveness, there was a significant 14.0% (95% confidence interval 0.8% to 28.9%, P=0.04) higher rate of mass shootings. In the partially adjusted model, there was an non-significant 13.2% (−3.1% to 32.3%, P=0.12) higher rate of mass shootings. For every 10 unit increase in state gun ownership in the fully adjusted model, there was a significant 60.3% (17.3% to 118.9%, P=0.003) higher rate of mass shootings. In the partially adjusted model, there was a borderline non-significant 31.2% (−1.7% to 75.0%, P=0.06) higher rate of mass shootings.

Our analyses show that US state gun laws have become more permissive in recent decades, and that a growing divide in rates of mass shootings appears to be emerging between restrictive and permissive states. A 10 unit increase in the permissiveness of state gun laws was associated with an approximately 9% higher rate of mass shootings after adjusting for key factors. A 10% increase in gun ownership was associated with an approximately 35% higher rate of mass shootings after adjusting for key factors. On the absolute scale, this means that a state like California, which has approximately two mass shootings per year, will have an extra mass shooting for every 10 unit increase in permissiveness over five years. It will also have three to five more mass shootings per five years for every 10 unit increase in gun ownership. These results were also consistent across multiple analyses and when stratified as to whether or not mass shootings were committed by someone in a close relationship with the victims.

Previous research

These associations between state gun laws, gun ownership, and mass shootings are analogous to what was found in previous research for other types of gun injuries. 6 7 8 9 10 To develop effective state gun laws, the underlying cause of the association with rates of mass shootings needs to be identified. Perhaps as a result of outside pressures, relatively few specific gun laws have been scientifically studied, much less proven effective, for gun violence outcomes in general, and mass shootings in particular. 2 35 Domestic violence and suicide are commonly connected to mass shooting events, so state gun laws involving restraining orders and extreme risk protection orders may be valuable first opportunities for scientific evaluation. 36 37 Non-legislative approaches, such as environmental modifications, policing practices, and bystander training, could also be worthy of evaluation in potentially preventing and reducing the tragic impacts of mass shootings. 38 39 40 41 As with other large-scale, population-wide solutions to relatively infrequent mass health threats, both legislative and non-legislative approaches should be carefully studied for their potential beneficial effects as well as any unintended consequences that could emerge. This caveat is applicable here given the low rate of mass shootings compared with daily shooting events, although certain solutions could benefit both events. 42 43 44 45 46

Strengths and limitations

There are several limitations to our study. Our study design incorporated a time series component, lagged variables, and multiple covariate adjustment strategies, and was primarily able to show broad associations between state gun laws, gun ownership, and mass shootings. The potential for omitted variable biases and reverse causation remain and future analyses are encouraged to build on our work by testing the before-and-after effects of enactment or repeal of gun laws in specific states, or both, alongside appropriately matched control states.

In addition, the state restrictiveness-permissiveness score we used has not been validated. However, this score had a wide range (0-100), was determined by legal professionals for use by actual gun owners, had nearly two decades of consistent data, and was highly correlated with other similar state-level scales that had been previously used (r=0.85). 6 State gun laws and the enforcement of these laws can be difficult to separate and our measure of state gun laws might not reflect differing levels of enforcement among states with comparable restrictiveness-permissiveness scores.

There are concerns about potential under-reporting in the Uniform Crime Reporting System Supplemental Homicide reports due to some states failing to consistently report. However, these under-reported data would likely bias our results toward the null. If errors were randomly distributed, then there would be non-differential misclassification, leading to an underestimate of our association. Alternatively, if there is differential misclassification, evidence points to it being among more permissive states (such as Alabama, Nebraska, and Florida) most likely leading to, if anything, underestimation in the associations we found. Despite this, improved reporting systems for mass shootings, including better tracking of whether mass shooters legally possessed their firearms or crossed state lines to obtain their weapons, or both, 47 48 are needed to further improve the accuracy and detail of future analyses.

Conclusion and future directions

The permissiveness or restrictiveness of state gun laws is associated with the rate of mass shootings in the US. States with more permissive gun laws and greater gun ownership have higher rates of mass shootings, and a growing divergence is noted in recent years as rates of mass shootings in restrictive states have decreased and those in permissive states have increased. Better data collection on mass shootings and more studies that test changes to specific state gun laws, compared with states that have not made changes, are necessary based on our findings, the general increase in state gun law permissiveness, and the pressing need reduce mass shootings in the US.

What is already known on this topic

  • More permissive state gun laws and higher levels of gun ownership are associated with higher levels of gun homicide and gun suicide in the US

What this study adds

  • States with more permissive gun laws and greater gun ownership have higher rates of mass shootings
  • There is a growing divergence in recent years as rates of mass shootings in restrictive states have decreased and those in permissive states have increased

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Web Extra. 

Extra material supplied by the author

Supplementary materials : Supplementary figure 1

Infographic : Guns, Laws, and Mass Shootings

Contributors: All authors participated in the writing, editing, creation, and approval of this paper. PMR assembled the data, conducted the analyses, and wrote and edited the original manuscript. CCB first conceptualized the paper and participated in data preparation, analysis, writing, and editing. All authors had full access to the data in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. PMR is the guarantor. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting these criteria have been omitted.

Funding: No extramural funding.

Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at and declare: no support from any organization for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organisations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

Ethical approval: Owing to the aggregated nature of the count data used in the study, the Institutional Review Board at Columbia University determined that the study was exempt.

Patient consent: Not applicable.

Data sharing: Statistical code and dataset available from the corresponding author.

The lead author (PMR) affirms that this manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as planned have been explained.

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Gun Control, Explained

A quick guide to the debate over gun legislation in the United States.

research paper on gun laws

By The New York Times

As the number of mass shootings in America continues to rise , gun control — a term used to describe a wide range of restrictions and measures aimed at controlling the use of firearms — remains at the center of heated discussions among proponents and opponents of stricter gun laws.

To help understand the debate and its political and social implications, we addressed some key questions on the subject.

Is gun control effective?

Throughout the world, mass shootings have frequently been met with a common response: Officials impose new restrictions on gun ownership. Mass shootings become rarer. Homicides and suicides tend to decrease, too.

After a British gunman killed 16 people in 1987, the country banned semiautomatic weapons like the ones he had used. It did the same with most handguns after a school shooting in 1996. It now has one of the lowest gun-related death rates in the developed world.

In Australia, a 1996 massacre prompted mandatory gun buybacks in which, by some estimates , as many as one million firearms were then melted into slag. The rate of mass shootings plummeted .

Only the United States, whose rate and severity of mass shootings is without parallel outside conflict zones, has so consistently refused to respond to those events with tightened gun laws .

Several theories to explain the number of shootings in the United States — like its unusually violent societal, class and racial divides, or its shortcomings in providing mental health care — have been debunked by research. But one variable remains: the astronomical number of guns in the country.

America’s gun homicide rate was 33 per one million people in 2009, far exceeding the average among developed countries. In Canada and Britain, it was 5 per million and 0.7 per million, respectively, which also corresponds with differences in gun ownership. Americans sometimes see this as an expression of its deeper problems with crime, a notion ingrained, in part, by a series of films portraying urban gang violence in the early 1990s. But the United States is not actually more prone to crime than other developed countries, according to a landmark 1999 study by Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins of the University of California, Berkeley. Rather, they found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed , that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process. They concluded that the discrepancy, like so many other anomalies of American violence, came down to guns. More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries , among American states , among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates. And gun control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries. This suggests that the guns themselves cause the violence. — Max Fisher and Josh Keller, Why Does the U.S. Have So Many Mass Shootings? Research Is Clear: Guns.

Every mass shooting is, in some sense, a fringe event, driven by one-off factors like the ideology or personal circumstances of the assailant. The risk is impossible to fully erase.

Still, the record is confirmed by reams of studies that have analyzed the effects of policies like Britain’s and Australia’s: When countries tighten gun control laws, it leads to fewer guns in private citizens’ hands, which leads to less gun violence.

What gun control measures exist at the federal level?

Much of current federal gun control legislation is a baseline, governing who can buy, sell and use certain classes of firearms, with states left free to enact additional restrictions.

Dealers must be licensed, and run background checks to ensure their buyers are not “prohibited persons,” including felons or people with a history of domestic violence — though private sellers at gun shows or online marketplaces are not required to run background checks. Federal law also highly restricts the sale of certain firearms, such as fully automatic rifles.

The most recent federal legislation , a bipartisan effort passed last year after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, expanded background checks for buyers under 21 and closed what is known as the boyfriend loophole. It also strengthened existing bans on gun trafficking and straw purchasing.

— Aishvarya Kavi


What are gun buyback programs and do they work?

Gun buyback programs are short-term initiatives that provide incentives, such as money or gift cards, to convince people to surrender firearms to law enforcement, typically with no questions asked. These events are often held by governments or private groups at police stations, houses of worship and community centers. Guns that are collected are either destroyed or stored.

Most programs strive to take guns off the streets, provide a safe place for firearm disposal and stir cultural changes in a community, according to Gun by Gun , a nonprofit dedicated to preventing gun violence.

The first formal gun buyback program was held in Baltimore in 1974 after three police officers were shot and killed, according to the authors of the book “Why We Are Losing the War on Gun Violence in the United States.” The initiative collected more than 13,000 firearms, but failed to reduce gun violence in the city. Hundreds of other buyback programs have since unfolded across the United States.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton announced the nation’s first federal gun buyback program . The $15 million program provided grants of up to $500,000 to police departments to buy and destroy firearms. Two years later, the Senate defeated efforts to extend financing for the program after the Bush administration called for it to end.

Despite the popularity of gun buyback programs among certain anti-violence and anti-gun advocates, there is little data to suggest that they work. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research , a private nonprofit, found that buyback programs adopted in U.S. cities were ineffective in deterring gun crime, firearm-related homicides or firearm-related suicides. . Evidence showed that cities set the sale price of a firearm too low to considerably reduce the supply of weapons; most who participated in such initiatives came from low-crime areas and firearms that were typically collected were either older or not in good working order.

Dr. Brendan Campbell, a pediatric surgeon at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and an author of one chapter in “Why We Are Losing the War on Gun Violence in the United States,” said that buyback programs should collect significantly more firearms than they currently do in order to be more effective.

Dr. Campbell said they should also offer higher prices for handguns and assault rifles. “Those are the ones that are most likely to be used in crime,” and by people attempting suicide, he said. “If you just give $100 for whatever gun, that’s when you’ll end up with all these old, rusted guns that are a low risk of causing harm in the community.”

Mandatory buyback programs have been enacted elsewhere around the world. After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia put in place a nationwide buyback program , collecting somewhere between one in five and one in three privately held guns. The initiative mostly targeted semiautomatic rifles and many shotguns that, under new laws, were no longer permitted. New Zealand banned military-style semiautomatic weapons, assault rifles and some gun parts and began its own large-scale buyback program in 2019, after a terrorist attack on mosques in Christchurch. The authorities said that more than 56,000 prohibited firearms had been collected from about 32,000 people through the initiative.

Where does the U.S. public stand on the issue?

Expanded background checks for guns purchased routinely receive more than 80 or 90 percent support in polling.

Nationally, a majority of Americans have supported stricter gun laws for decades. A Gallup poll conducted in June found that 55 percent of participants were in favor of a ban on the manufacture, possession and sale of semiautomatic guns. A majority of respondents also supported other measures, including raising the legal age at which people can purchase certain firearms, and enacting a 30-day waiting period for gun sales.

But the jumps in demand for gun control that occur after mass shootings also tend to revert to the partisan mean as time passes. Gallup poll data shows that the percentage of participants who supported stricter gun laws receded to 57 percent in October from 66 percent in June, which was just weeks after mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo. A PDK poll conducted after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde found that 72 percent of Republicans supported arming teachers, in contrast with 24 percent of Democrats.

What do opponents of gun control argue?

Opponents of gun control, including most Republican members of Congress, argue that proposals to limit access to firearms infringe on the right of citizens to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. And they contend that mass shootings are not the result of easily accessible guns, but of criminals and mentally ill people bent on waging violence.

— Annie Karni

Why is it so hard to push for legislation?

Polling suggests that Americans broadly support gun control measures, yet legislation is often stymied in Washington, and Republicans rarely seem to pay a political price for their opposition.

The calculation behind Republicans’ steadfast stonewalling of any new gun regulations — even in the face of the kind unthinkable massacres like in Uvalde, Texas — is a fairly simple one for Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. Asked what the reaction would be from voters back home if he were to support any significant form of gun control, the first-term Republican had a straightforward answer: “Most would probably throw me out of office,” he said. His response helps explain why Republicans have resisted proposals such as the one for universal background checks for gun buyers, despite remarkably broad support from the public for such plans — support that can reach up to 90 percent nationwide in some cases. Republicans like Mr. Cramer understand that they would receive little political reward for joining the push for laws to limit access to guns, including assault-style weapons. But they know for certain that they would be pounded — and most likely left facing a primary opponent who could cost them their job — for voting for gun safety laws or even voicing support for them. Most Republicans in the Senate represent deeply conservative states where gun ownership is treated as a sacred privilege enshrined in the Constitution, a privilege not to be infringed upon no matter how much blood is spilled in classrooms and school hallways around the country. Though the National Rifle Association has recently been diminished by scandal and financial turmoil , Democrats say that the organization still has a strong hold on Republicans through its financial contributions and support, hardening the party’s resistance to any new gun laws. — Carl Hulse, “ Why Republicans Won’t Budge on Guns .”

Yet while the power of the gun lobby, the outsize influence of rural states in the Senate and single-voter issues offer some explanation, there is another possibility: voters.

When voters in four Democratic-leaning states got the opportunity to enact expanded gun or ammunition background checks into law, the overwhelming support suggested by national surveys was nowhere to be found. For Democrats, the story is both unsettling and familiar. Progressives have long been emboldened by national survey results that show overwhelming support for their policy priorities, only to find they don’t necessarily translate to Washington legislation and to popularity on Election Day or beyond. President Biden’s major policy initiatives are popular , for example, yet voters say he has not accomplished much and his approval ratings have sunk into the low 40s. The apparent progressive political majority in the polls might just be illusory. Public support for new gun restrictions tends to rise in the wake of mass shootings. There is already evidence that public support for stricter gun laws has surged again in the aftermath of the killings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas. While the public’s support for new restrictions tends to subside thereafter, these shootings or another could still produce a lasting shift in public opinion. But the poor results for background checks suggest that public opinion may not be the unequivocal ally of gun control that the polling makes it seem. — Nate Cohn, “ Voters Say They Want Gun Control. Their Votes Say Something Different. ”


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  • Issues and Controversies: Gun Control June 2022 article giving opposing answers to the question "Should the United States Adopt Stronger Gun Control Laws?"
  • CQ Researcher: Gun Violence: have efforts to control firearms reached a turning point? Comprehensive overview article from 2018
  • Gale eBooks: Gun Control A collection of overview articles from a variety of specialized encyclopedias
  • Gale eBooks: Gun Safety A collection of overview articles from a variety of specialized encyclopedias
  • America's Gun Wars: A Cultural History of Gun Control in the United States This eBook from 2019 examines the controversies surrounding gun control in the U.S., which, it asserts, are about whether to prioritize the traditional values of rugged independence or newer values of communitarian interdependence.
  • School/College Safety and Security Newspaper articles on issues of school security including coverage of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvale, Texas and historical information on school shootings.
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The FBI and CDC Datasets Agree: Who Has Guns—Not Which Guns—Linked to Murder Rates

SPH Professor Michael Siegel

SPH Professor Michael Siegel. Photo by Cydney Scott

Two BU studies, one shared finding: State gun laws restricting who has access to guns significantly reduces rates of firearm-related homicide

Jessica colarossi, kat j. mcalpine.

As the United States reels from three back-to-back mass shootings—which occurred within the span of eight days in Gilroy, Calif., El Paso, Tex., and Dayton, Ohio—Boston University School of Public Health researcher Michael Siegel  says that mirrored analyses of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) homicide data serve to double down on evidence that controlling  who has access to guns has much more impact on reducing gun-related homicides than controlling what guns people have.

“Using completely different datasets, we’ve confirmed the same thing,” says Siegel, an SPH professor of community health sciences. “The main lesson that comes out of this research is that we know which laws work. Despite the fact that opponents of gun regulation are saying, ‘We don’t know what’s going on, it’s mental health issues, it’s these crazy people,’ which doesn’t lend itself to a solution—the truth is that we have a pretty good grasp at what’s going on. People who shouldn’t have access to guns are getting access.”

Siegel’s latest study, published July 30, 2019 , in the  Journal of Rural Health, reinforces previous research findings that laws designed to regulate who has firearms are more effective in reducing shootings than laws designed to control what types of guns are permitted. The study looked at gun regulation state by state in comparison with FBI data about gun homicides, gathered from police departments around the country. Analysis revealed that universal background checks, permit requirements, “may issue” laws (where local authorities have discretion in approving who can carry a concealed weapon), and laws banning people convicted of violent misdemeanors from possessing firearms are, individually and collectively, significantly able to reduce gun-related deaths.

It’s a particularly compelling finding because in March 2019, Siegel and collaborators drew virtually the same conclusion by analyzing state laws in comparison with death certificate data collected nationally by the CDC.

In that study, which was  published March 28, 2019, in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Siegel’s team analyzed 25 years of national data to examine the relationship between 10 different types of state laws and the number of deaths by homicide and suicide in all 50 states. State gun laws requiring universal background checks for all gun sales resulted in homicide rates 15 percent lower than states without such laws. Laws prohibiting the possession of firearms by people who have been convicted of a violent crime were associated with an 18 percent reduction in homicide rates. In contrast, Siegel found that laws regulating the type of firearms people have access to—such as assault weapon bans and large capacity ammunition magazine bans—and “stand your ground” laws have no effect on the rate of firearm-related homicide. None of the state gun laws studied were found to be related to overall suicide rates.

Universal background checks, which have long been a top priority for gun control advocates and policymakers in the United States, appear to have the biggest impact. Though there has been a push for federal gun regulations in recent years, the power to legislate gun sales and gun ownership is largely beholden to the states. And according to Siegel, the data don’t lie. The average firearm homicide rate in states without background checks is 58 percent higher than the average in states with background-check laws in place. As of 2017, only 13 states, including Massachusetts, had laws requiring universal background checks.

The Brink  asked Siegel to take us on a deeper dive into the findings of these two studies.

The Brink : What’s different about the design of these studies?

Michael Siegel: There are numerous studies that have examined the effect of particular state firearm laws, but there are few studies, until now, that have investigated the impact of multiple state firearm laws at the same time, using the same statistical model. Our goal was to assess the impact of multiple state laws using a single statistical model, while controlling for the presence of each of the other laws. It’s important to recognize that states that have one law in place are more likely to have other laws in place as well. One must examine the impact of each law while controlling for the presence of other laws. We did twice—once using death certificate data collected by the CDC and a second time using police-reported homicide data collected by the FBI.

Which aspects of your findings are particularly striking to you?

Tight regulation of who has access to firearms, rather than the type of firearms that are allowed, differentiates states with the lowest rates of homicides. What surprised us the most was that in states that enacted a combination of universal background-check laws, laws prohibiting the sale of guns to people with violent misdemeanors, and concealed carry permit laws, the homicide rates were 35 percent lower than in states with none of those three kinds of laws. The practice of keeping guns out of the hands of people who are at the greatest risk for violence—based on a history of violence—appears to be the most closely associated with decreased rates of firearm homicide.

We also found that certain laws appear to be more effective depending on location. That makes sense because the nature of urban crime is somewhat different, and the populations in urban vs. suburban areas are different. In large cities with more than 100,000 people, we found background checks were even more effective at reducing rates of gun-related deaths than they were in suburban or rural areas. In contrast, we found that violent misdemeanor laws were more effective at reducing homicide rates in suburban and rural areas than they were in large cities. Permit requirements were robustly effective regardless of location. This is suggestive that applying a cluster of different types of state laws is necessary, because not every law will work the same for each local population.

research paper on gun laws

Can you explain the relationship between two types of laws you found to reduce homicide rates: universal background checks and laws prohibiting possession of firearms by people with past records of violence, aka violent misdemeanor laws?

In a sense, universal background checks are the basic platform upon which you can effectively implement restrictions on who has access to a gun. States need to have two types of laws to be effective: first, restrictions on who can access a gun; and second, universal background checks so that you know whether a prospective buyer is subject to those restrictions.

Why do you think laws regulating the “who” have a substantial impact on firearm homicide, as opposed to laws regulating the “what”?

Laws regulating the sale of assault weapons are unlikely to have a large impact on homicide rates, because these weapons are used in only a very small proportion of homicides. The vast majority of firearm homicides in the United States are committed with handguns. In contrast, laws that restrict access to firearms among those people who are at the greatest risk for violence—namely, people with a history of violence—are intervening among a subpopulation of people who are likely to commit crimes. In other words, you are intervening in the most focused way possible—that is, in high-risk situations. 

What’s your take on advocates pushing for both universal background checks and bans on assault weapons?

Although I completely understand the desire to ban assault weapons, I just don’t see empirical evidence that such bans have any substantial impact on homicide rates. These bans are most often based on characteristics of guns that are not directly tied to their lethality. In contrast, requiring universal background checks in all 50 states could have a substantial impact on gun violence because it would essentially set a minimum standard across the nation—that standard being very simply that people purchasing a gun need to be checked to see if they have a history that puts them at high risk for violence.

Public health advocates need to set priorities in terms of what policies are the most critical to enact. In fact, the primary purpose of our policy brief was to review the existing research and provide data on multiple laws in order to inform public health advocates and policymakers on this issue.

How, in your opinion, can lawmakers effectively reduce gun violence in their home states?

I believe that the three most important things that lawmakers can do to reduce gun violence in their home states are to pass laws that: one, require universal background checks; two, prohibit gun purchase or possession by anyone with a history of violence, whether it be a felony or a misdemeanor; and three, provide a mechanism, called red flag laws, to address people who are at an extreme risk of committing violence, not only to other people but to themselves.

In that regard, how do Massachusetts state laws stack up?

Massachusetts is one of the few states—also including California, New York, and New Jersey—that has a comprehensive set of laws regulating firearms. We have background checks, permit requirements, “may issue” laws where local police have lots of discretion in approving who can carry a concealed weapon, and a law that prevents most people convicted of a violent misdemeanor from carrying a weapon. We’re an example of state legislation that works—we have one of the lowest homicide rates in the nation. 

That’s not to say we can be complacent, though. In the city of Boston, in certain neighborhoods, gun violence is a problem. We need to address that. But on the whole, the state does have strong laws. 

However, it’s important to recognize that when other states surrounding you have weak policies, it undermines the effect of your own state laws, which is exactly what happened last week in Gilroy, California. The shooter went to Nevada to get a gun, because it’s harder to get a gun in California. That’s the argument for why federal legislation is important—individual states can’t do it all on their own.

Ohio has proposed a “red flag” law that would allow authorities to confiscate firearms from individuals that they have sufficient reason to believe pose a danger to others. Do you think this type of law would be effective?

In the case of the Dayton shooter, we know that this is a person who should have been flagged as someone not able to possess a firearm. This individual made threats to kill and sexually assault high school classmates, he had a hit list with names written out. The principal and local law enforcement knew about it. It’s a perfect situation of an example that shouldn’t exist. I think a “red flag” law could make an impact—it’s hard enough to control people who don’t make threats. So when someone does threaten violence, they should not have access to a gun. The general picture that we’re getting is that if we can intervene in situations where there’s the greatest risk for violence to occur, that’s where we can have the greatest impact.

This article was updated with new information on August 6, 2019. The original version of this article was published on March 29, 2019. These research studies were funded by the National Institute of Justice and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Evidence for Action Program.

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Photo of Jessica Colarossi. A white woman with long, straight brown hair and wearing a black and green paisley blouse smiles and poses in front of a dark grey background.

Jessica Colarossi is a science writer for The Brink . She graduated with a BS in journalism from Emerson College in 2016, with focuses on environmental studies and publishing. While a student, she interned at ThinkProgress in Washington, D.C., where she wrote over 30 stories, most of them relating to climate change, coral reefs, and women’s health. Profile

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There are 33 comments on The FBI and CDC Datasets Agree: Who Has Guns—Not Which Guns—Linked to Murder Rates

Definitely a fan of universal background tests and restricting people with a history of violence from obtaining guns, but couldn’t a “may issue” law be used as a discriminatory tool? I may just be prejudiced against the police, but something about local police having the ability to determine who can and cannot carry a gun seems like we’re relying too much on the police not harboring prejudices of their own.

BU Student: I completely agree. We know the police harbor prejudices for a fact — whether it’s cops murdering black men in the street or just harassing BIPOC in general, posting racist & violent memes & comments on Facebook, or the fact that cops perpetrate domestic violence against their own families at a significantly higher rate than non-police.

When we talk about preventing gun violence, we need to talk about disarming the police & ending police impunity.

The only way to sell disarming the police is to also disarm the general population. It is also more likely the police would be demilitarised instead of completely disarmed at least until it has become clear they face a low to below zero risk of facing gun toting criminals. Even mere demilitarisation is still a good thing that will lead to far fewer police shootings.

Issues of police prejudice and police impunity are more issues of accountability and consequences. In many countries the assumption is the armed police officer is responsible for determining if a threat is present and when shooting an unarmed person the assumption is they didn’t fulfil this obligation. The minimum penalty would be dismissal without benefits.

Of course the best solution to this is to just take away the right for police to investigate themselves. By having an independent third party investigate claims against police tends to lead to more finding of wrongdoing.

Actually, police must obey by the same laws as any citizen in self-defense shootings (only kind that are legal in any state). Now, the problem is that DA’s and government organizations tend to give a LEO a pass when they should not. 2A is exactly intended as a defense against a government that has become unlawful, so IMHO at no time should we allow a “may issue” or “may allow” laws, There should be simple direct rules as to who can buy or carry. The law should be clear to the average person, as in Texas, a fixed content course, written test, comprehensive background test and a “live fire” test. Citizens that have a Texas Handgun permit have a crime rate about 4X better than police and 15X better than average citizen. Florida also have such stats.

Rather than disregard some solutions out of fear of a hypothetical flaw, the wise course would be to look at current practices where police have control over distribution of licenses to see if these abuses exist. For far too long, we have allowed groups like the NRA to ban discussion of reasonable controls because the group paints a worst-case scenario to a policymaker.

Absolutely correct, it’s a slippery slope, it can easily become more and more restrictive, constitutional issues abound, is murder a result of living in a violent society where war serves only a few? Careful..

I appreciate the practicality of the solutions the researcher poses from his thorough research. It’s often a topic of debate if people are the problem or guns themselves but this study meets at the intersection of these stances to say it’s the laws that allow for certain people to acquire guns that are the problem. Hoping to share this artice to guide productive conversations towards gun reform laws

In the linked study, Siegel et al specifically remind that their data do not demonstrate a causal relationship between enacted laws and the reduction of homicides.

But of course, the authors of this article concluded exactly that, despite their best efforts to construct a guise of scientific objectivity.

Disingenuous at best, though not surprising given the source.

Focusing on gun homicides instead of all homicides shows selection bias.

It does not matter to a victim if they are killed with a gun or another implement.

Framing the issue as “gun violence” frames it as a problem with inanimate objects, rather than with culture and criminality.

Moreover, looking at broad categories of states instead of correlating on a state by state basis suggests an agenda rather than careful analysis.

“Framing the issue as “gun violence” frames it as a problem with inanimate objects, rather than with culture and criminality.”

You should read the article – and the headline – which loudly notes that it’s about WHO has the guns and not which guns. Throughout the article it’s stresses several times that the object doesn’t matter, but who has it.

“Moreover, looking at broad categories of states instead of correlating on a state by state basis suggests an agenda rather than careful analysis.”

Um, I’m not exactly sure what you’re saying here, but while it sounds sciency it shows you need to read the article. They correlated state *laws* with controls on other laws that state has as well as adjoining state laws and other applicable things. That’s pretty much the definition of a state by state comparison.

You’re not here just to troll, are you?

“You should read the article – and the headline – which loudly notes that it’s about WHO has the guns and not which guns. Throughout the article it’s stresses several times that the object doesn’t matter, but who has it.”

This isn’t really the objection, though.

The is a common problem in research on gun violence. The study finds that *gun* homicide rates go down when certain laws are in effect. But what it doesn’t do is look at whether the states with certain kinds of laws have lower homicide rates period.

In other words, if a law makes it so that people commit the same number of murders but with different implements, can we really call the law “effective” in any meaningful way? To call it effective in that context is to say that being murdered by a gun is somehow worse than being murdered in some other way. This isn’t to say that the study’s findings are pointless or useless information. We just have to be clear about what, specifically, is being proven.

Exactly. If all homicides are considered the places where “shall issue” may show a homicide rate lower than the “may issue” places. We know that 1-2 million times a year that an armed citizen will stop a violent crime (CDC, many other studies), so for these cases there is no source of documentation,

To make Universal Background check acceptable for “private” transfers is to change the NICS system so that the average citizen can check the status of the buyer without cost and without violation of privacy laws, Maybe a web site where the buyer can logon and receive an “electronic token” that can be used by the seller to verify with NICS. Maybe a 2D scan that could be scanned with your smart phone (with option of entry of a unique series of digits/letters from keyboard). I have no problem with the background check, but the cost, time and inconvenience of going to an FFL for the check amounts to a “underhanded way to discourage gun ownership”.

Yes I’m sure convicted felons well now line up to background checks at your local Cabela’s….

seems to me that a fully enforced mandatory stiff jail sentence – five plus years (in addition to the penalty for any additional crime committed with the weapon) – for anyone illegally possessing a weapon, would go a long way to reducing illegal possession and gun crimes

These laws are already on the books but there is no or poor enforcement by liberal judges and DA’s. “He’s just a poor boy your honor, he didn’t mean to kill, rob and rape, he was an addict”. Then they plead out to lesser charges to avoid real charges and real JUSTICE! The Criminal gets more rights than the Victim due to institutional RACISM!

I am a dedicated proponent of the Second Amendment, and I find this article to be very enlightening. My only rebuttal is that the statement that “may issue“ concealed carry permit policies do not reduce the likelihood of violence over “shall issue” policies. Statistics show that all CCW holder’s have a substantially lower rate of criminal violence than non-holders. And in states that are more liberal in the distribution of carry licenses, the applicants are still required to submit information including fingerprints that are checked against an FBI criminal database. Statistics also show that violent crime rates reduce in states that convert to Shall Issue policies instead of May Issue.

So I get the details of these studies, however there are some interpretations of the data that are inaccurate.

Saying there is no empirical evidence that laws banning assault weapons and controlling what weapons are effective in preventing homicide rates is not accurate.

Weapons that are highly lethal and able to sustain continuous firing without reloading and easy reloading, however you classify them, are a clear weapon of choice for mass shooters.

If you review the data, nearly every mass shooting involves a weapon fitting this description and many mass shooter prefer handguns because they areas to conceal, use and carry. The challenge with the interpretations here are handguns are not considered an assault weapon even though many handguns clearly fit the criteria. Handguns may be responsible for most homicides but that doesn’t mean making it hard for those intending to commit a mass shooting gaining access to these weapons makes no difference. Globally the restriction of these weapons are clearly linked to a reduction in mass shootings, and the data in these studies doesn’t disagree with this.

The research into how who has access to guns only applies to those with a history that can be traced. While this approach does clearly impact overall gun murders and should be supported, it can not prevent someone with no history of violence from obtaining a weapon. Other countries with much greater experience in preventing gun crime, with stricter laws than any in the US, have learned that these people are the most challenging. For example there is very little gun crime in Australia but there have been 2 lawful gun owners, who committed mass murder with a gun. Both were going through child custody fights. A law to automatically notify a spouse if their partner applies to buy a gun would have prevented one of these murders and a law to regularly review a lawful gun owner’s fitness to possess would have prevented the other.

Who has access to guns absolutely counts, and laws to demand a gun owner ongoingly demonstrate their fitness to possess and can confiscate them when they cannot do so makes a clear and measurable difference, but what weapons are available also counts. The reality is even if a legal gun owner is fit and responsible they cannot guarantee their weapon will not end up in the hands of someone who is not. After two decades of tight national gun controls, Australia now has more weapons that have been stolen from lawful gun owners than those in legal possession, and criminals don’t care about following the rules. Restrictions on what still matter.

So you ‘get the details’ that show that the type of gun doesn’t matter, but you still want gun bans and confiscations.

I think an inaccuracy exists, however not with the data, but with a reluctance to discard an assumption. An assumption that has caused an obsessive/compulsive disorder in the body politic. Ban Guns! Gun Problem Solved!

Enact a prior restraint even when this scientific evidence being reported on points out that really doesn’t solve anything.

No one will change what you believe, however, what you think may.

You are correct. However, if a home invader thinks that the target home has multiple armed and trained citizens in resident, they do have a strong urge to find a safer profession. I want to have the US such that a large percentage of homes are unattractive to such criminals.

I think that the “gun control” groups keep harping on AR’s is the reason that they are now more popular of mass shooters not that they are more deadly or effective. We had an AW ban for 10 full years and NO positive results could be identified and many negative results were shown, That is why both sides agreed to allow it to expire.

You also need to understand existing law to make a conclusion that more laws would help, and this doesn’t seem to be the case.

From that article:

“However, it’s important to recognize that when other states surrounding you have weak policies, it undermines the effect of your own state laws, which is exactly what happened last week in Gilroy, California. The shooter went to Nevada to get a gun, because it’s harder to get a gun in California.”

Sorry, but this is nonsense. The Gilroy murderer bought the gun in Nevada because that is where he lived. He was a NV resident, bought the rifle from a NV FFL, and passed Nevada’s mandatory background check. The only thing “easier” about buying the gun in NV is that there is no waiting period (which would have had had no effect, he bought the rifle 3 weeks prior). Now the rifle was considered in CA an “Assault Weapon” in that it it had a detachable magazine and a pistol grip, things that are not allowed in the California. The rifle itself, a WASR is perfectly legal in CA, with the addition of a grip wrap, a magazine lock and a 10 round magazine, all of which are easily removable with simple hand tools. To see the CA compliant version of the same rifle, google “WASR10 CA LEGAL”

The theory often cited that criminals travel to states with less restrictive laws to buy their guns is simply wrong. It is federally illegal to buy a handgun in a state you are not a resident of, and for long guns it is only legal if the transaction goes through a Federal Firearms License (which requires at minimum NICS background check) and is legal in both the state of residence of the buyer and the location of the sale.

For example, a CA resident cannot legally buy a firearm in Nevada, because it is not allowed by CA. A Utah resident can buy a long gun, but has to go through the same background check a NV resident does.

Now you can make the argument that face to face sales are not required by law to check residency, and that is true, but it doesn’t change the fact that buying a gun in another state without a background check is already illegal.

This is backed up by “Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016” from the U.S. DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics, which reports the vast majority were stolen or acquired “Off the street/underground market” or through straw purchases (because criminals, being criminals, are already prohibited from owning firearms), all of which are already illegal. Only ~10% acquired guns from a retail source, of which 0.8% came from “Gun Shows”

Missing from the article is any discussion of the Constitution and the fact that virtually all of current laws are un-constitutional. The real purpose of disarming any population is to set the groundwork for setting up a dictatorship. And of course, universal background checks will lead to confiscation and disarming the population. Check Germany under Hitler.

Don’t California and New York with some of the strickest laws also have the some of the highest numbers of murder and rate of violent crime? If Red Flag laws were well defined so there needs to be some proof of a credible threat, then I could support that. But I can’t support the type of Red Flag laws that my state of VA is proposing where they just need hearsay based on the word of one officer, for the same reasons I can’t support the unjust “may issue” clause giving undue power to police officers who have been proven to be prejudice.

Would you be able to do a study on how rate of fatherless homes effects rates of violent crimes? I keep hearing that fatherlessness is one of the greatest metrics for likelihood of violent crimes but haven’t actually seen the data for it.

Guns are not the problem. You continue to ignore the real issue so the problem will never be solved. Let’s start addressing the real problem. The lack of morals, the lack of ethics and the lack of respect for the sanctity of human life. Then we have the breakdown of the family unit and kids that are being raised by the (often violent) TV and Xbox, often undisciplined and with no respect for authority. On top of that we now have a generation exposed to the idea that if a human life is a bother to you, it’s a right to end it. (Abortion if you didn’t catch on.) On top of that is the entitlement mentality that a growing segment of society has and sometimes when one of those individuals doesn’t get what they think they deserve they believe the whole world hates them and they decide to go on a shooting spree. But no, these subjects seem be taboo, instead there is only discussion about my 2nd Amendment rights, the hate of the NRA and law abiding gun owners.

I agree it isn’t about the guns itself it’s about how you use or intend to use them. If you buy a deer hunting rifle 9 times out of 10 you only use it for hunting use and then when the season that you use it for, you put it back in the designated area you chose (preferably a gun cabinet/safe). where I’m from there’s no school shootings in my county, because we handle things differently. and if there is a problem we don’t let it get that far even though it hardly ever comes down to that. So guns aren’t the problem the people that use them are! We usually handle arguments with punches, not shooting people. Although, it has happened before. But half the reason for police and school shootings is with the “drugs” that people use.

If there wasn’t so many stupid people in this country we wouldn’t have to have disscussions about this subject!

I’ve not read all comments, but this is the best so far , anyone can argue until they are blue in the face because those who argue against morals , Seriously they are the absolute problems , and nothing will change in this debate on who is right. Until morality becomes a virtue in this country or any other, Wright it down in your journal’s or anywhere you see fit and when things turn to the worse, most likely it will be to late. It’s easy to see we are on a path to self destruction Read any history where where civilizations were destroyed or fallen was because of corruption (no righteous morals)

Another bit of info, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Selected Findings (NCJ-15358), violent criminals serve on average just 48% of their prison sentence when incarcerated. This includes homicide were those convicted of murder server just 71 months on average. These consequences clearly are not enough to intimidate gang members and drug dealers, the vast bulk of those committing homicide in the US. 83% of released state prisoners are arrested at least once for a new offense after their initial release.

The failure of the penal system and law enforcement to deal with violent criminals does not give anyone the right to infringe upon my rights. The “for your own good” mantra has been used throughout most of history as an excuse for governments to gain additional power over it’s citizens. In the past 100 or so years, this has been demonstrated repeatedly. In the US, there are over 22,000 gun laws on the books already but it’s never enough for the gun grabbers. You think criminals are dangerous? The don’t hold a candle to governments. And in studies commissioned by the CDC, they have never been able to show that ANY gun laws have had a positive impact on crime. So ask yourself why politicians keep wanting more of them.

The Turkish Ottoman Empire established gun control in 1911. It then proceeded to exterminate 1 and a half million Armenians from 1914 to 1917. ————————————————– In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. —————————— In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. —————————— Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated. —————————— China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. —————————— Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. —————————— Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. —————————— Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. —————————– Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.

Gun control, the solution of the simple minded.

Gun manufacturers and NRA officials use excuse of second ammendment( outdated in current atmosphere) to brainwash succeptible individuals need for guns including Assault weapons. To get beer, drivers license – needs license and age restrictions. Why not strict restrictions for acquiring guns. Greed of making more money prevents such restrictions. Unless thinking changes; our country will continue to have unnecessary deaths from homicides and suicides

It seems like there are discrepancies in this article and I suggest people read the actual study. The article refers to “homicide rates” and then to “gun related deaths” which are significantly different. Given nearly 50% of “gun related deaths” are suicides and the study finds no effect on gun laws and suicide rates I find it suspect to say that implementation of 2 laws would reduce homicides in excess of 25%.

Next issue; there are 15 states plus DC that have universal background checks. It’s fairly easy to determine that the homicide rate in those states averages 5.3% not 3.3%. If you exclude the outlier (DC at 22.8%) you come up with 4.22% vs. a national average (including DC) of 5% based on 2018 statistics. Clearly there is some manipulation so you need to read the actual paper to determine why there is a discrepancy.

Part of the reason we can’t get effective gun laws on the books is because studies like this have such obvious biased flaws and poor definitions. Reducing the number of guns will reduce the amount of gun violence, but is that actually the objective of gun regulation? I would argue the objective is to reduce violence, not gun violence.

Reducing the number of baseball bats will reduce the amount of baseball bat violence but really doesn’t accomplish any true goals except to placate the anti-baseball bat crowd.

Nothing will improve until all states require background checks. If those background checks are limited to AR 15’s (weapon of war most used in mass shootings), the argument about constitutionally-guaranteed gun rights being threatened is eliminated. Then, the real hunters and marksmen will realize their ownership is safe adding to support this first step.

ALL states require background checks… ALL. All background checks require citizens and legal firearm owners to check their background before purchasing from a licensed agent.

NO STATE – NOT ONE, requires or has a law for criminals to obtain background checks before purchasing or stealing a gun from an unlicensed source.

ALL gun control laws currently planned or advocated for, just attempt to make legal owners and citizens into criminals.

There are NO plans, interests, or attempts to address CURRENT criminals from breaking further laws and obtaining guns illegally.

When I first read this my first thought was, “explain Chicago then!” City wide fire arms ban for about 2 decades, 700 a year killed with guns? I have many issues with this story. For starters, “RED FLAG” laws. There goes one key to Pandora’s box. Our government is already corrupted beyond repair. They pass laws yearly that we don’t even hear or know about, so now lets start passing , ‘take your rights because you MIGHT do something wrong in the future. In case no one noticed, the government, never loosens the noose of oppression. It might start with 10 points of criteria needed to show their supposed reasonable cause to seize the subjects guns, two years later it will be 7 points needed and so on. And my reasonable isn’t the same as their reasonable. (the points I reference are just my way pointing out how their subjective criteria and burden for cause will erode until it’s just one more unchecked power they have. The point is for now its just guns. Cars killed 40,000 this year and phone use contributed to 1/4 to 1/3 of those accidents, so is it cars and phones next. And then your right to earn an income.

Then there is the entire point that In my opinion it is unlawful for them to take my rights to have a firearm from the start. Shall not be infringed. The framers of our constitution and the writers of the old English bill of rights all agreed that the right to bear arms was in fact not a new right given to the people by the constitutions, or the governments, but a right that all men, women, and children were born with, bestowed upon them at birth by God and shall not be infringed. The Supreme Court was wrong in 2008 District of Columbia v, Heller, when it said that it didn’t preclude long standing prohibitions forbidding possession by felons. That’s a lie! I don’t consider less than 80 years, long standing over the course of 1000 years of firearms existence. I have had my license revoked since 1992. The State has made errors that have created this hell for me, and they won’t just admit to it and correct the problem, but since I have been arrested 3 times driving (3x’s in 30 years, and just to get to a job every time) well the third time was a felony and a 6 year sentence, now how do they justify taking my 2nd rights for driving revoked. All gun advocate’s scream, we need them for our right to protect our selves!!! But I drove to a jobsite without a license so I DON’T HAVE THE SAME RIGHT TO PROTECT MYSELF.

Oh, one more thing. of mass shootings in USA over the last 30 years, 74% of the guns used were bought legal and with a background check. About 2% were stolen or black market type. so says the FBI.

Yes background check by FBI, an a waiting period. Not instant buy take home for certain guns not all. But first Close the black market where many guns are purchaser’s are made.

I’ve been doing this longer than the authors have been alive lol. In my long experience as a fed who has more passports than most people have drivers licenses I see it comes down to three things.

Quality of life. Happy content people don’t get into violent crime. Gangs in my experience prey upon people and trap them in the lifestyle. Mexico for example has the worlds strictest firearms control yet gun violence is rampant. Those are NOT US guns either. See STRATFOR’s piece by former DSS agents one who worked Mexico and against the cartels on that myth. We see this proven in Chicago. They gave at risk youth summer jobs and in 8 weeks violent crime arrests plummeted 47%. Food security, healthcare access, decent cost of living.

The other issue as police chief Contee of DC said is the revolving door. Courts are complacent on putting away dangerous people. We saw this with Columbine too. Those two were recommended for a psych eval that would have sent up major red flags and the judge dismissed that request.

Proper mental healthcare referrals Aurora shooter was deliberately dropped and not referred to police.

VT, NH, and ME always pro gun used to be superb violences wise because of those 3 things. Now with transplants like Bernie Sanders he ushered in poverty to VT. Crime upticked.

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