Thursday, July 22, 2021

Do strict state gun policies reduce gun violence. (Gun talk #6)

by Rod Williams- In looking at the issue of gun violence, one thing seems safe to say, strict local gun control policies have little impact on the level of gun violence. Well, what about state gun policies?  Do strict state gun laws have an impact on the level of gun violence?  

Across the nation, the level of restrictions on guns varies greatly.  A website called Inverse, reports that according to the State Firearm Laws database maintained by the Boston University School of Public Health, the following states, at only four each, have the fewest gun laws:
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Alaska 
The states with the most gun laws, with 106 and 100, respectively are:
  • California
  • Massachusetts
What are we talking about when we talk about state gun laws? Here are some of the most common. 
  • Bans on "assault weapons" and large-capacity magazines.
  • Background checks, more stringent than the federal requirement. 
  • Banning the sale of guns to "high-risk" individuals, such as those with mental health issues or a history of violence. 
  • Buyer regulation such as requiring a license to purchase a gun or even receive a gift of a gun from a family member or restricting the number of guns a single buyer may purchase or requiring registration of the gun. 
  • Possession and carry regulations, such as rules on where one may carry, and carry permits for concealed weapons or open carry.
  • Domestic violence laws such as laws prohibiting one convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun or even one with a restraining order. 
These are some of the most popular gun laws advocated by those who want more gun laws. To see which states have which gun laws in the categories listed above, follow this link.  (For much more on the gun laws in the various states see this link and this link.) 

So, if state gun laws are effective, states with more gun laws should show less gun violence. What does the evidence show? World Population Review, a credible source of information that analyzes all kinds of data and statistics to make the information accessible and understandable, has looked at the data on states with the most and least gun deaths (link).  Here is what the data shows:

The five states with the highest gun death rates are:
  • Alaska - 24.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Mississippi - 24.2 deaths per 100,000
  • Wyoming - 22.3 deaths per 100,000
  • New Mexico - 22.3 deaths per 100,000
  • Alabama - 22.2 deaths per 100,000
The five states with the lowest gun death rates are:
  • Massachusetts - 3.4 deaths per 100,000
  • New York - 3.9 deaths per 100,000
  • New Jersey - 4.1 deaths per 100,000
  • Hawaii - 4.4 deaths per 100,000
  • Rhode Island - 4.6 deaths per 100,000
Notice this about the above data:
  • Alaska is one of the states with the highest gun death rate and also the fewest gun laws.
  • Massachusetts is one of the states with the lowest gun death rate and most gun laws. 
That would support the argument that more gun laws result in a lower gun death rate. 

People who have studied the issue reach the same conclusion.  The Senate Committee on the Judiciary issued a statement from Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the committee that stated,  States With Weak Gun Laws Suffer From More Gun Violence. Here are some studies Senator Feinstein references to support her contention.
  • A study by the Center for American Progress found the 10 states with the weakest gun laws (Kansas, Mississippi, Wyoming, Arizona, Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, Kentucky, Vermont and Missouri) had three times more gun violence than the 10 states with the toughest gun laws (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Rhode Island and Delaware).
  • One John Hopkins University study found that when Connecticut implemented a requirement to have a permit to purchase a gun, gun homicides dropped by 40 percent. When Missouri repealed a similar law, gun homicides rose 25 percent.
One may not like Senator Feinstein for any number of reasons and one may reject calls for more gun regulation because of philosophical reasons, but the information she sighted can not be just dismissed because Senator Feinstein quoted it. The Center for American Progress and John Hopkins, do not just make up facts.

Other reputable sources also looked at the data and come to the same conclusion that more gun control results in (or at least correlates with) fewer gun deaths. Here are some other studies:

In looking at any data set, one should be mindful of the difference between causation and correlation. Remember that people who carry cigarette lighters have more incidents of lung cancer.  Other factors that may influence the findings in the reports sighted above are the demographics of the state, the number of guns in circulation, the effectiveness of the enforcement of the laws on the books, the guns laws of adjacent states, and the culture of the state.  

If one looked for patterns one may find that states with high levels of auto accidents have more gun fatalities or one may find that a state with more obesity has less gun violence. Just because data correlates does indicate a cause nor does it dictate one reach a certain conclusion.  Having stated the above caveat, however, the data causes me to recognize that states with more gun laws have fewer gun deaths.

For more in this series of articles on gun violence see the following:

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