Three laws could reduce gun deaths by as much as 90%, according to a study published in The Lancet. Data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows firearms killed 33,636 people in 2013. The study’s authors say their proposed legal changes could reduce that figure to around 3,000.
The study also found some gun control laws might actually increase gun deaths. Gun control opponents are critical of the research, citing weak statistical correlations and expert skepticism.
Could Legal Changes Reduce Gun Deaths?
Researchers looked at 25 state gun control laws implemented in 2009, then explored firearm-related homicides and suicides between 2008 and 2010. The study controlled for factors correlated with gun deaths, such as unemployment and gun ownership rates.
The team found some gun laws actually increased gun deaths. Those were:
- Permitting police inspection of gun stores.
- Requiring gun dealers to provide gun sale records to the state.
- Three-day limits on background check extensions.
- Background checks or permits at gun shows in states that do not require universal background checks (better known as “closing the gun show loophole”).
- Restrictions on so-called assault weapons.
- Stand your ground laws.
- Standardized locks on guns.
- Law enforcement discretion regarding the issuance of concealed-carry licenses.
- Limiting the number of guns a person can purchase.
Nine pieces of legislation were associated with a decreased rate in gun deaths. Those were:
- Gun dealers maintaining sales records.
- Store security measures such as video cameras.
- Requiring dealers to procure a state-issued license to sell firearms.
- Firearm identification systems such as ballistic fingerprinting.
- Universal background checks.
- Safety testing or training requirements for firearms purchasers.
- Reporting stolen or lost guns.
- Background checks for people purchasing ammunition.
- Law enforcement involvement in the gun permitting process.
Three regulations produced the strongest reduction in gun deaths: firearm identification systems, universal background checks for guns, and background checks for ammunition.
Gun Control Opponents Skeptical
Critics of the study say the short period of tracking can make it difficult to establish a robust connection between legislation and decreased firearm deaths. In an editorial published with the study, Harvard School of Public Health’s David Hemenway said the study was a step forward, but also expressed skepticism.
“That result is too large—if only firearm suicide and firearm homicide could be reduced so easily,” he wrote.
The study’s authors say their research highlights the role legislation can play in reducing gun deaths.
- All injuries. (2016, February 10). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm
- Kalesan, B., PhD, Mobily, M. E., MD, Keiser, O., PhD, Fagan, J. A., PhD, & Galea, S., MD. (2016). Firearm legislation and firearm mortality in the USA: A cross-sectional, state-level study. The Lancet. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01026-0
- Study IDs 3 laws that could greatly reduce gun deaths. (2016, March 10). Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/10/health/gun-laws-background-checks-reduce-deaths/
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