Additional Topics

Effects of Widespread Gun Availability

  • The Effects of the 1996 National Firearms Agreement in Australia on Suicide, Violent Crime, and Mass Shootings

    Australia’s 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) banned several types of firearms and resulted in the government buying hundreds of thousands of the banned weapons from their owners. Studies examining the effect of removing so many weapons from the community have found that homicides, suicides and mass shootings were less common after the NFA was implemented. There is more evidence consistent with the claim that the NFA caused reductions in firearm suicides and mass shootings than reductions in violent crime generally, but there is also evidence that raises questions about whether those changes can be attributed to the NFA or to other factors that influenced suicide and mass shooting rates around the time the NFA was implemented.

  • The Relationship Between Firearm Availability and Suicide

    Empirical research on the causal effects of firearm availability on the risk of suicide is consistent with the claim that firearms increase suicide risk, but this research cannot yet rule out some other explanations for observed associations between guns and suicide. There are, however, theoretical or logical arguments for believing firearms elevate suicide risk that are sufficiently compelling that individuals and policymakers might reasonably choose to assume that gun availability does increase the risk of suicide.

  • The Relationship Between Firearm Prevalence and Violent Crime

    In the past 12 years, several new studies found that increases in the prevalence of gun ownership are associated with increases in violent crime. Whether this association is attributable to gun prevalence causing more violent crime is unclear. If people are more likely to acquire guns when crime rates are rising or high, then the same pattern of evidence would be expected. An important limitation of all studies in this area is the lack of direct measures of the prevalence of gun ownership.

Other Gun Violence Reduction Strategies

  • Education Campaigns and Clinical Interventions for Promoting Safe Storage

    Safe storage of firearms may prevent suicide and unintentional injuries and deaths. There is research evidence that child-access prevention laws, which require safe storage practices, can reduce suicides and unintentional injuries and deaths. While there is limited evidence that education campaigns have successfully promoted safe storage of firearms, there is evidence that clinicians who counsel families to store guns safely can influence behavior, particularly when devices, such as gun locks, are given away for free.

  • Firearm and Ammunition Taxes

    Taxation has been a standard policy lever used to limit the harms associated with potentially dangerous goods, but has rarely been used to manage risks associated with gun violence. Although several states and localities have imposed special taxes on firearms and ammunition, these have typically been used to generate revenue. There is little empirical evidence to indicate how taxation would influence firearm-related outcomes.

  • Mental Health Care Access and Suicide

    Several studies have found an association between greater availability of mental health care and reduced rates of suicide. In many studies, it is not clear whether these associations are attributable to a causal effect of access to mental health care or to some other factor associated with both suicide risk and the availability of mental health care (such as urbanicity). Nevertheless, two studies that examine mental health parity laws using more-rigorous methods for establishing causal effects suggest that such laws, and improved access to care, may reduce suicide rates.

  • Restricting Access to Firearms Among Individuals at Risk for or Convicted of Domestic Violence or Violent Crime

    Many states have implemented laws designed to prevent domestic violence perpetrators from acquiring or retaining firearms. Evidence suggests that domestic violence–related prohibited-possessor policies may reduce homicide rates.

  • Mass Shootings: Definitions and Trends

    There is no standard definition of what constitutes a mass shooting. Media outlets, academic researchers, and law enforcement agencies frequently use different definitions when discussing mass shootings, leading to different assessments of the frequency with which mass shootings occur and about whether mass shootings are more common now than they were a decade or two ago.

The Effectiveness of Defensive Gun Use

  • The Challenges of Defining and Measuring Defensive Gun Use

    Self-protection is one of the primary reasons many people give for buying or carrying a gun. Estimates of the frequency of defensive gun use vary widely, in part reflecting difficulties in defining and measuring defensive gun use. The personal and social benefits associated with defensive gun use are controversial, and only a few new studies have been conducted to clarify these trade-offs in the past 15 years.

Recommendations for Researchers

  • Methodological Challenges to Identifying the Effects of Gun Policies

    Research on the effects of gun policies has a history of producing contradictory results and contentious debates about appropriate research methods. Our review of this literature identified several problems that, if addressed in future research, could result in stronger and more compelling evidence.

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