Firearm-Related Violence

V. Key Issues: Population Health >> E. Health Promotion >> Violent and Abusive Behavior (last updated 7.6.16)

Current Policy

“[F]irearms are the most heavily regulated consumer product in the United States. If someone wants to purchase an AR-15 or any other firearm, the store must first get permission for the sale from the FBI or its state counterpart. Permission is denied if the buyer is in one of nine categories of “prohibited persons,” including felons, domestic-violence misdemeanants, and persons who have been adjudicated mentally ill or alcoholic.”

Proposed Policies

Fast Facts

Research and Analysis

Evaluation of U.S. Gun Control Policies

  • CDCFirst Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws. Findings from the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (1993). This systematic review of 51 studies of the impact of alternative strategies for preventing firearm-related violence concluded “the Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence.
  • Knight, Brian G.State Gun Policy and Cross-State Externalities: Evidence from Crime Gun Tracing (September 2011). NBER Working Paper Series, Vol. w17469, pp. -, 2011. This paper provides a theoretical and empirical analysis of cross-state externalities associated with gun regulations in the context of the gun trafficking market. Using gun tracing data, which identify the source state for crime guns recovered in destination states, we find that firearms in this market tend to flow from states with weak gun laws to states with strict gun laws, satisfying a necessary condition for the existence of cross-state externalities in the theoretical model. We also find an important role for transportation costs in this market, with gun flows more significant between nearby states; this finding suggests that externalities are spatial in nature. Finally, we present evidence that criminal possession of guns is higher in states exposed to weak gun laws in nearby states.
  • Manski, Charles F.  and John V. Pepper. How Do Right-To-Carry Laws Affect Crime Rates? Coping With Ambiguity Using Bounded-Variation Assumptions. NBER Working Paper No. 21701. Issued in November 2015.  We find there are no simple answers; empirical findings are sensitive to assumptions, and vary over crimes, years, and states. With some assumptions, the data do not reveal whether RTC laws increase or decrease the crime rate. With others, RTC laws are found to increase some crimes, decrease other crimes, and have effects that vary over time for others.
  • Joe Palazzolo and Carl Bialik. Lack of Data Slows Studies of Gun Control and Crime. Wall Street Journal, 12/21/12. “The National Research Council, part of the congressionally chartered National Academies, analyzed the body of research on gun laws and gun violence and found no credible evidence that laws permitting residents to carry guns had decreased or increased violent crime, or that gun limits keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.”
  • Jon Stokes. Why the NRA Hates Smart Guns. 4.30.16. Explains the severe limitations of the 1994 Automatic Weapons Ban and provides links explaining the limitations of smart gun technology.
  • Jon Stokes. Why Millions of Americans–including me–Own the AR-15. 6.20.16.
  • Firearm Safety Locks: Federal Agency Implementation of the Presidential Directive (GAO 9/30/98)
  • Videos
    • C-SPAN. Stand Your Ground Laws. John Lott and Jon Lowy discussed “stand your ground” laws in states throughout the nation, the Castle Doctrine, and what the impact of such laws has been. They also reacted to a video clip of President (video: 1 hr. 28 min.)
    • Bill Whittle. The Truth About Guns (video). Demonstrates that while U.S. leads world in guns per capita, it ranks 111th on murders per 100,000. If the higher-than-average murder rates of cities with strict gun control (e.g., Detroit) are removed, the U.S. ranking would be even lower.

Evaluation of Gun Control Policies in Other Countries

Epidemiological Studies

  • Anglemyer, AndrewTara Horvath, George Rutherford; The Accessibility of Firearms and Risk for Suicide and Homicide Victimization Among Household Members. A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014. Someone with access to firearms is three times more likely to commit suicide and nearly twice as likely to be the victim of a homicide as someone who does not have access, according to a comprehensive review of the scientific literature conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco.
  • David Kopel. Guns, Mental Illness and Newtown. Wall Street Journal, 12/18/12.
    • A 2000 New York Times study of 100 rampage murderers found that 47 were mentally ill.
    • In the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry Law (2008), Jason C. Matejkowski and his co-authors reported that 16% of state prisoners who had perpetrated murders were mentally ill.
    • A 2011 paper by Steven P. Segal at the University of California, Berkeley, “Civil Commitment Law, Mental Health Services, and U.S. Homicide Rates,” found that a third of the state-to-state variation in homicide rates was attributable to the strength or weakness of involuntary civil-commitment laws.
  • Confronting Violence (by George A. Gellert, MD)

General Resources