Are There Effective Gun Control Laws?

Guns are once again a hot topic with the latest shooting in Florida. I’ve written about gun control before. Ultimately, is there any evidence that gun control laws work? If so, which ones? According to a 2016 study in The Lancet,

The three laws most strongly associated with reduced firearm mortality were universal background checks for firearm purchase, background checks for ammunition, and requiring firearm identification by either microstamping or ballistic fingerprinting. We showed that federal-level implementation of these three laws would substantially reduce overall national firearm mortality. Finally, the three laws most strongly associated with reduced homicide-specific firearm mortality were universal background checks for firearm purchase, background checks for ammunition, and firearm identification; firearm identification was associated with reduced suicide-specific firearm mortality (pgs. 7-8).

Scientific American has a useful rundown of other laws, including:

  • Permits: “An effective solution would be to require people to apply, in-person, at local law enforcement agencies for gun purchase permits…In a 2009 study involving 53 cities Webster and his colleagues found this approach, which gives law enforcement officials discretion about who they gave permits to, was linked with a 68 percent reduced risk of guns being diverted to criminals post-sale. But after Missouri repealed its permit-to-purchase handgun law in 2007, firearm homicide rates increased by 25 percent, a jump that was not seen in neighboring states or the rest of the country, Webster’s team reported. Missouri’s repeal was also linked with a 52 percent increase in handgun murders of law enforcement officers in the line of duty.”
  • Ban anyone convicted of a violent crime from gun purchases: “In 1991 [California] passed a law preventing individuals with violent convictions from buying guns. And in a study published in JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2001 Wintemute and his colleagues studied its effects. Convicts who were allowed to buy guns before the law passed were nearly 30 percent more likely to be arrested later for a gun crime or other violent act compared with convicts who tried, but were unable, to buy guns after the law was passed. “That’s a big effect,” Wintemute says.”
  • Make all serious domestic abuse offenders surrender guns: “Some states are now passing state laws requiring individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes to surrender their firearms; an October 2017 study found that these “relinquishment” laws are nearly 50 percent more effective than non-relinquishment laws at reducing intimate partner violence. It would also help a lot to restrict guns from people with domestic violence restraining orders against them. In a 2010 study Webster and his colleagues found restrictions based on restraining orders were associated with a 19 percent reduction in the risk for intimate partner homicide in large U.S. cities. Such restrictions are in place in 35 states and Washington D.C. These changes are important because intimate partner violence is strongly tied to mass shootings: A 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service found more than one fifth of all public mass shootings between 1999 and 2013 were precipitated in part by domestic disputes. During this period there were also 127 nonpublic mass shootings in the U.S. that involved an individual killing at least four family members. Keeping people prone to domestic violence away from firearms would prevent many massacres.”
  • Temporarily ban alcohol abusers from firearms: “Federal law prohibits people who are addicted to and/or unlawfully using controlled substances from owning guns. But recent data suggest some nine million U.S. firearm owners also binge drink, which is a specific medical problem involving abuse of the substance alcohol. Wintemute’s research suggests people with DUIs (driving under the influence) are four to five times as likely as people with no criminal record to be arrested for a violent crime in the future. Based on these data, Wintemute proposes a temporary ban on gun possession among individuals who have had, in the past five years, two or more convictions for DUI or another crime that indicates alcohol abuse.”

Many proposed laws are already in place. Nonetheless, the more you know.1

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