Changes in Firearm Mortality Following the Implementation of State Laws Regulating Firearm Access and Use

Published in: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2020). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1921965117

Posted on on June 26, 2020

by Terry L. Schell, Matthew Cefalu, Beth Ann Griffin, Rosanna Smart, Andrew R. Morral, Douglas S. Massey

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Although 39,000 individuals die annually from gunshots in the US, research examining the effects of laws designed to reduce these deaths has sometimes produced inconclusive or contradictory findings. We evaluated the effects on total firearm-related deaths of three classes of gun laws: child access prevention (CAP), right-to-carry (RTC), and stand your ground (SYG) laws. The analyses exploit changes in these state-level policies from 1970 to 2016, using Bayesian methods and a modeling approach that addresses several methodological limitations of prior gun policy evaluations. CAP laws showed the strongest evidence of an association with firearm-related death rate, with a probability of 0.97 that the death rate declined at 6 y after implementation. In contrast, the probability of being associated with an increase in firearm-related deaths was 0.87 for RTC laws and 0.77 for SYG laws. The joint effects of these laws indicate that the restrictive gun policy regime (having a CAP law without an RTC or SYG law) has a 0.98 probability of being associated with a reduction in firearm-related deaths relative to the permissive policy regime. This estimated effect corresponds to an 11% reduction in firearm-related deaths relative to the permissive legal regime. Our findings suggest that a small but meaningful decrease in firearm-related deaths may be associated with the implementation of more restrictive gun policies.

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