The science is becoming increasingly clear that while some restrictive gun laws appear to reduce gun violence, other more permissive gun laws exacerbate it. And with more than 40,000 gun deaths a year in America, the stakes could hardly be higher.
After declining for two decades, gun violence began to increase in 2014 and increased in 2020.
Mass shootings reached record highs in 2021 and 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which has tracked events since 2014 in which four or more people were shot.
In response, the federal and state governments passed a series of gun laws last year that reflected differing views on how to address gun violence while protecting the rights of gun owners.
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Our review of hundreds of scientific studies now finds supporting evidence – our highest evidence rating – that “shall-issue” concealed carry laws are associated with more gun homicides.
These laws, which take away law enforcement discretion in issuing concealed carry permits, became law nationwide with the June Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.
Our findings suggest that the Bruen ruling could lead to higher gun homicide rates in states now required to adopt a license, such as New York and California, which until this year had lower than average gun homicide and suicide rates than other U.S. states.
In contrast, four states last year made their already permissive concealed carry laws even more so: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and Ohio dropped concealed carry permit requirements and joined about 20 other states that now allow unlicensed concealed carry.
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New evidence since our last review reinforces our previous finding that stand-your-ground laws, which remove the duty to withdraw from a confrontation before using deadly force, increase gun violence. The effects of these laws are not fully explained by more justifiable killings, as might be expected. Rather, the laws seem to be increasing both justifiable and unjustified gun homicides.
In contrast, several more restrictive laws appear to reduce the risk of firearm homicides and suicides. There is now supporting evidence that child access laws reduce rates of gun homicide and self-injury among youth.
California’s gun laws could be effective in reducing homicides and suicides
In 2022, California required school districts to notify all parents of the states’ safe storage requirements, and New York increased the age of minors from 16 to 18 for child access laws.
Also last year, Delaware raised the minimum age to buy all firearms to 21, and New York raised the age to buy semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21. gun violence – have moderate evidence of effectiveness in reducing youth gun suicides. Moderate is our second highest evidence rating.
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Similarly, laws requiring background checks for all firearm transactions, not just those involving an authorized dealer, have moderate evidence that they reduce overall homicide rates. In 2022, Oregon and Vermont passed laws strengthening their background check systems to ensure that a background check is conducted on all firearm transfers.
There is now moderate evidence that mandatory wait times between when someone buys a firearm and can take possession of it reduces homicides and suicides involving firearms.
Such laws exist in nine states, although requiring a license to purchase a firearm may impose a similar de facto waiting period.
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A 2022 federal law and new laws in California, New Jersey and New York aim to strengthen the ban on domestic abuse from accessing or possessing firearms.
We found moderate evidence that gun laws related to domestic violence reduce intimate partner homicides, and moderate evidence that laws intended to require the surrender of firearms from domestic violence, particularly when combined with laws expanding the definition of who access to firearms should be prohibited, can also reduce firearm-related partner violence.
In 2022, several states have banned or restricted the sale or transfer of high-capacity magazines, including Delaware, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington, and New York expanded the existing ban. Research evidence is more limited for these bans, but it suggests they may succeed in reducing mass shootings and mass shootings.
Gun violence claims more than 100 lives every day
The number of gun deaths in the United States remains below the peak of the early 1990s, but an average of more than 120 people are still killed by guns each day. Many more people are affected by non-fatal gun violence.
No gun policy is likely to solve this problem, and many of the policies that mattered last year — such as the ban on phantom guns, the ban on guns in playgrounds and polling places, and laws that allow teachers and other school personnel to carry firearms — have not been addressed. strong evidence base still in the scientific literature. These laws can reduce or increase violence, but scientific research on them is not yet strong enough to judge them.
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Nevertheless, compelling scientific evidence is accumulating for several commonly applied laws. Where the science is strong, legislators would be wise to take it into account when making decisions about how to protect public safety while preserving civil liberties, including the right to bear arms.
Andrew R. Morral is a senior behavioral scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation; leader of gun policy in America, a RAND initiative to understand the effects of gun policy; and director of the National Collaborative on Gun Violence Research. Rosanna Smart is an economist at RAND, an affiliate faculty of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Do Strict Gun Laws Reduce Violence? Our research says yes