Apr 22, 2020
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To understand how rates of firearm ownership may be affected by public policy and how they may affect crime rates or other key outcomes in the United States, researchers need measures of firearm ownership at the state level. As part of the Gun Policy in America initiative, RAND researchers developed annual, state-level estimates of household firearm ownership by combining data from surveys and administrative sources. First, they used a small-area estimation technique to create state-level ownership estimates for each of 51 nationally representative surveys assessing household firearm ownership rates. They then used structural equation modeling to combine these survey-based estimates with administrative data on firearm suicides, hunting licenses, subscriptions to Guns & Ammo magazine, and background checks into the final measure of household firearm ownership. The resulting measure represents the proportion of adults living in a household with a firearm for each state in each year between 1980 and 2016. Other researchers can use these annual, state-level measures to test theories about the relationship between firearm ownership and crime, injury, and public policy.