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Updated Aug. 16, 2018 to correct minor errata on pp. 296-297.

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枪支政策探索: 关于美国枪支政策效果研究证据之批判性综述 (内容摘要)

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총기 정책의 과학: 미국의 총기 정책이 미치는 영향의 증거에 관한 종합 연구 결과물 (요약)

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Research Questions

  1. What does the scientific evidence say about the effects of various firearm policies on societally important outcomes?
  2. What steps might policymakers and other stakeholders take to improve the scientific evidence base on how gun policies affect outcomes?

This report was superseded by a second edition in April 2020 and a third edition in January 2023.

The RAND Corporation's Gun Policy in America initiative is a unique attempt to systematically and transparently assess available scientific evidence on the real effects of firearm laws and policies. Good gun policies require consideration of many factors, including the law and constitutional rights, the interests of various stakeholder groups, and information about the likely effects of different laws or policies on a range of outcomes. This report seeks to provide the third — objective information about what the scientific literature examining gun policy can tell us about the likely effects of laws. The study synthesizes the available scientific data on the effects of various firearm policies on firearm deaths, violent crime, the gun industry, participation in hunting and sport shooting, and other outcomes.

By highlighting where scientific evidence is accumulating, the authors hope to build consensus around a shared set of facts that have been established through a transparent, nonpartisan, and impartial review process. In so doing, they also illuminate areas where more and better information could make important contributions to establishing fair and effective gun policies.

Key Findings

Despite Modest Scientific Evidence, the Data Support a Few Conclusions

  • Of more than 100 combinations of policies and outcomes, surprisingly few have been the subject of methodologically rigorous investigation. Notably, research into four of the outcomes examined was essentially unavailable at the time of the review, with three of these four outcomes representing issues of particular concern to gun owners or gun industry stakeholders.
  • Available evidence supports the conclusion that child-access prevention laws, or safe storage laws, reduce self-inflicted fatal or nonfatal firearm injuries among youth, as well as unintentional firearm injuries or deaths among children.
  • There is moderate evidence that background checks reduce firearm suicides and firearm homicides, as well as limited evidence that these policies can reduce overall suicide and violent crime rates. There is moderate evidence that stand-your-ground laws may increase homicide rates and limited evidence that the laws increase firearm homicides in particular.
  • There is moderate evidence that violent crime is reduced by laws prohibiting the purchase or possession of guns by individuals who have a history of involuntary commitment to a psychiatric facility. There is limited evidence these laws may reduce total suicides and firearm suicides.
  • There is limited evidence that a minimum age of 21 for purchasing firearms may reduce firearm suicides among youth.


  • When considering adopting or refining child-access prevention laws, states should consider making it a felony to violate these laws; there is some evidence that felony laws may have the greatest effects on unintentional firearm deaths.
  • States that currently do not require a background check investigating all types of mental health histories that lead to federal prohibitions on firearm purchase or possession should consider implementing robust mental illness checks, which appear to reduce rates of gun violence.
  • To improve understanding of the real effects of gun policies, Congress should consider lifting current restrictions in appropriations legislation that limit research funding and access to data. In addition, the administration should invest in firearm research portfolios at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Justice at levels comparable to its current investment in other threats to public safety and health.
  • To improve understanding of outcomes of critical concern to many in gun policy debates, the U.S. government and private research sponsors should support research examining the effects of gun laws on a wider set of outcomes, including crime, defensive gun use, hunting and sport shooting, officer-involved shootings, and the gun industry.
  • To foster a more robust research program on gun policy, Congress should consider eliminating the restrictions it has imposed on the use of gun trace data for research purposes.
  • Researchers, reviewers, academics, and science reporters should expect new analyses of the effects of gun policies to improve on earlier studies by persuasively addressing the methodological limitations of earlier studies, including problems with statistical power, model overfitting, covariate selection, and poorly calibrated standard errors, among others.

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