Mar 2, 2018
This report, part of the Gun Policy in America initiative, describes the results of a survey in which gun policy experts estimated the likely effects of 15 gun-related policies on 12 societally important outcomes. Researchers use the results to identify where experts agree and disagree and where disagreements concern facts about the effects of gun policies that could possibly be resolved with better scientific information.
This report was superseded by a revised, updated edition in late 2021.
The effects of firearm policies have rarely been the subject of rigorous scientific evaluation in comparison with most other policies with similarly consequential effects on public safety, health, and the economy. Without strong scientific evidence of the effects of laws, policymakers and the public rely heavily on the expert judgments of advocates or social scientists. This makes gun policy experts' estimates of the true effects of policies an important influence on gun policy debates and decisions.
In this report, RAND researchers describe the results of a survey in which gun policy experts estimated the likely effects of 15 gun-related policies on 12 societal outcomes. The researchers use these and other responses to establish the diversity of beliefs among gun policy experts about the true effects of gun laws, establish where experts are in more or less agreement on those effects, and evaluate whether differences in the policies favored by experts result from disagreements about the policies' true effects or disagreements in experts' policy objectives or values. The analysis suggests that experts on both sides of the gun policy debate share some objectives but disagree on which policies will achieve those objectives. Therefore, collecting more and stronger evidence about the true effects of policies is, the researchers believe, a necessary step toward building greater consensus.
Sample of Policy Experts
Survey Design and Analysis Plan
Correlates of Experts' Divergent Views
Developing a Gun Policy Comparison Tool Using Survey Data
Discussion and Conclusions
RAND Survey of Firearms Experts
Details About the Statistical Modeling of Expert Favorability Ratings
Descriptive Statistics by Expert Class, Outcome, and Policy
Data Sources, Calculations, and Additional Assumptions for the Gun Policy Comparison Tool