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Contrary To Spin, Stronger Gun Laws Do Reduce Gun Violence

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Contrary To Spin, Stronger Gun Laws Do Reduce Gun Violence


Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.


One of the most prominent gun violence researchers in the United States is disputing a Washington Post fact-check that concluded there is “no evidence” that stronger gun laws “dramatically reduce” gun violence.

In an interview with Media Matters, Dr. Daniel Webster, who serves as the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, pointed to research showing significant reductions in gun violence associated with permit-to-purchase laws, and explained how the Post erred in its analysis in several ways, including by relying on discredited researcher John Lott and suggesting gun suicides should be removed from analyses of the efficacy of gun laws.

The Post Fact Checker purported to check a statement by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) who said during a CNN appearance, “What we know is that states that have tougher gun laws, that keep criminals from getting guns, that keep those dangerous weapons like AR-15s out of the hands of civilians, have dramatically lower rates of gun violence.” In an October 17 article, Murphy was awarded “three pinocchios” — a rating indicating a “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions” — with the Post Fact Checker concluding that “the evidence to support Murphy’s claim is thin, at best” and that “there is no evidence that tough laws ‘dramatically reduce’ gun violence as Murphy claims.”

Reached by email, Webster debunked the fact-check’s conclusion by pointing to permit-to-purchase laws, which require gun buyers to first obtain a permit. Such permits often require the permittee to obtain a background check, gun safety training, and education on gun laws and use.

Contrary to the Post’s conclusion, Webster noted that “we have a growing body of research showing that permit to purchase laws dramatically reduce gun violence,” and pointed to laws in Connecticut and Missouri, explaining, “When Connecticut passed its permit to purchase law in 1995, that state experienced a 40% reduction in firearm homicide and a 15% reduction in firearm suicide in the 10 years following enactment. When Missouri repealed its permit to purchase law in 2008, that state experienced a 16% increase in both firearm homicide and firearm suicide. Additionally, Missouri experienced an increase in handgun assaults against law enforcement officers.”

Webster also said that while “laws prohibiting firearms for those under restraining orders for domestic violence” may not have resulted in “dramatic” reductions in gun violence, they still “led to statistically significant declines in intimate partner homicide.”

The Post Fact Checker cited right-wing gun researcher John Lott to bolster its conclusions about gun laws, even though Lott’s research has been shown numerous times to be disreputable. When asked about the fact-check’s reliance on Lott, Webster said, “Researchers have repeatedly shown that John Lott’s work does not pass scientific muster. His research on the ‘more guns, less crime’ theory has been demonstrated to be so flawed” that “the experts assembled by the National Research Council determined that its findings cannot be interpreted. Other researchers have identified a number of errors in Lott’s data and in his statistical analyses.”

And what happens when errors in Lott’s analysis are corrected? According to Webster, “Recent research that corrects for these flaws finds the opposite of Lott’s research — that laws that increase gun carrying lead to more violent crime.”

The Post fact-check also sought to separate out gun suicides — which account for two-thirds of gun deaths — from research evaluating the efficacy of stronger gun laws, claiming “many of the studies that show gun control reduces gun deaths include suicides, which distorts the results.” (Media Matters has previously criticized the Post for making this determination in a fact-check on gun laws.)

Webster took issue with this exclusion, saying gun suicides “should absolutely be included when thinking about the burden of gun violence.” The reason is the lethality of a gun suicide attempt compared to other ways by which suicide is commonly attempted. As Webster explained, “Contrary to popular opinion, suicides are preventable. Individuals that are unable to access firearms in a time of crisis may not go on to attempt suicide by another means, but even if they do firearms are significantly more lethal than other means of suicide accounting for more than 50% of all suicides. Substituting for less lethal means is likely to reduce suicide because those means have lower case fatality rates than firearms.”

Indeed, a review of 90 studies on long-term outcomes for individuals who previously attempted suicide found 89 to 95 percent did not become future victims of suicide. In terms of gun laws that can reduce firearm suicides, Webster pointed to permit-to-purchase laws, which are associated with lower suicide rates, and child access prevention laws that are associated with lower youth firearm suicide rates.

Asked about the responsibility of media as a whole to cover the gun violence issue appropriately, Webster said that “media has a responsibility to report the truth.”

He told Media Matters, “I recognize that especially on an issue considered divisive like guns, media feel the need to report ‘both sides.’ But offering the opinions of widely-discredited pundits is not ‘presenting the other side.’”




  1. bobnstuff October 25, 2017

    When the deaths are Auto related we pass laws, when they are drug related we declare a national emergency but when the are gun related we do nothing. The facts are pretty clear more guns and easy access leads to more gun deaths. One problem is the anti gun movement picks assault weapons as a target when in fact it’s hand guns that are doing the killing. We need common sense gun laws that protect the innocent from dying. Is that to much to ask for?

    1. FireBaron October 25, 2017

      Until the NRA is officially declared a terrorist organization, and funding for GOP politicians from them is cut off, we will have to live with people who have no business getting access to firearms obtaining them and using them against innocents.

      1. David October 25, 2017

        Just how is that going to happen?

    2. David October 25, 2017

      “Common sense”? Like gun confiscation? Too bad, snowflake, there’s that darned 2nd Amendment!

      1. bobnstuff October 25, 2017

        Did you know that the idea of the second amendment meant hands off gun control is less then a hundred years old. Back when the country still had militias the guns were kept in a central location not in the homes.

        “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free
        State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be

        Up until the 20th century this was one sentence and only meant the need for armed militia instead of a standing army.

        That being said do you think confiscation is common sense? We have limited the type of weapons own for a long time, no machine guns among other rules. The SCOTUS has always supported some limits. I believe common sense is to make people reasonable for storing guns in a safe and secure manner. Also making sure people understand gun safety before they can own one. Keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill would be common sense, don’t you agree? If your name is on the no fly list it should also be on the no gun purchase list. I believe that if you want to own a gun you are responsible for anything that happens with it, if it’s stolen it must be reported, if some one loses their life because you didn’t keep it safe you got to jail. The only time a gun should be confiscated it if the owner is irresponsibly with it or doesn’t keep it safe.

        1. David October 25, 2017

          “… the country still had militias the guns were kept in a central location not the homes.”? What planet are you from?
          By the way, since you obviously don’t know what the word “militia” means, check out 10 U.S. Code Section 246.
          There were no militias nor any central locations for guns. Can you name any?

          1. Sand_Cat October 25, 2017

            Even if your dubious claim that he doesn’t understand the meaning of “militia” is true, that’s OK: you don’t know what the words “Christian,” and “love,” and “kindness” and “religious freedom” and a host of other far more important words mean, or – more likely – you know perfectly well what they mean, but choose to order your thinking to exclude those things in any real situation.

          2. David October 29, 2017

            What would you know about Christianity you abortion loving POS?

          3. Sand_Cat October 30, 2017

            Losing it, Doc?
            “Abortion-loving”? Really? That the best you’ve got? Actually, you guys are the abortion-lovers. You’d lose half your base without the distortions, lies, and self-righteous pontificating, probably the reason most of you hate birth-control and Planned Parenthood. They’ve probably prevented more abortions than all of your blathering, and hurt far, far fewer people.
            And I know a lot more about Christianity than you might think, arguably more than ignorant hypocrites like you.

          4. David October 30, 2017

            Sorry, Idiotic Liar. The Bible isn’t a smorgasbord to pick and choose only what you like. Planned Parenthood? Read Jeremiah 1:5

          5. Sand_Cat October 31, 2017

            Well, Doc, if the Bible isn’t a smorgasbord, then why do you “Christians” treat it like one?

            Can’t face the fact that family planning and real sex education reduce abortions, can you? As I said before, your sad attempts to insult me are without effect on me, but they say the world about YOUR “Christianity” and the hypocrisy it feeds on.

          6. bobnstuff October 25, 2017

            If you took time to study history you would know that not everyone had rifles back in 1700’s and in order to put together a militia the government had to provide arms. Those arms were kept in a central location and the members would drill after Church on Sundays. One of the problems with the militia was a lack of guns. Connecticut was one state that for a time after the revolution had armories in many towns.

            “The delegates of the Constitutional Convention (the founding fathers/framers of the United States Constitution) under Article 1; section 8, clauses 15 and 16 of the federal
            constitution, granted Congress the power to “provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia”, as well as, and in distinction to, the power to raise an army and a navy. The US Congress is granted the power to use the militia of the United States for three specific missions, as described in Article 1, section 8, clause 15: “To provide for the calling of the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.” The Militia Act of 1792 clarified whom the militia consists of:

            Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or
            Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act.”

          7. David October 28, 2017

            So why haven’t you been able to cite the locations of these “central locations” for guns? Where were they as we pushed West to conquer this continent?

          8. bobnstuff October 28, 2017

            At the time of the writing of our constitution the wild west was Pittsburgh. The people on the frontier had guns but the city folks didn’t carry them around or even own them. Remember that the Indians were friendly and unless you were hunting you didn’t need a gun. If you read the accounts of the time you will see the complaints of how badly equipped the militias were. It didn’t take long before the our leaders figured out that a standing professional military was going to be needed. Among other locations with arsenals was Lexington.

          9. David October 29, 2017

            Sorry…couldn’t find any back up to prove your assertion that Lexington was a “central location” for the storing of weapons for the populace. Your authority for your assertion?

          10. bobnstuff October 30, 2017

            I have a link if I can find it. These a book also about all this that I read a number of years back, I have a brother who is a rein actor and this is his area of expertise. Lexington wasn’t the central location many towns had there own arsenals. Philadelphia and Concord had them also. Any big stuff like cannons where kept there as well as a store of power and bullets. Not all the rifles but a number were stored there to. Unless you were planning on going hunting the town folk had little use for guns, that was except of use in the militia. In the revolutionary war the militias became armies and lost their independents, after the war for a few years the local militias would practice on about one Sunday a month but as a fighting force they weren’t very good.



            Also As I remember the armories had a theft problem. I’m looking for the book and will up date when I find it.

      2. Sand_Cat October 25, 2017

        No one mentioned that but you. Typical lies and BS, doc. They teach you that in your doctorate classes?

  2. Richard Prescott October 25, 2017

    I read somewhere else that the weapons manufacturers hate having slow sales. And when that happens they tend to push lobbyists and groups like the NRA to do the scare tactic pitch fanning the flames of various fears and the irrational ideation that somehow the second Amendment is involved.
    So I have argued with people over this bull who were gun owners claiming the government was going to take their guns away.
    And to date has that ever happened? NO!
    Not even to the idiots out west who were Bundy’s sons and that stupid group that took over the US land in Oregon.
    I have to wonder that if the NRA actually pushed doing the responsible thing that all of a sudden all these “fears” would fade away. People would still be able to buy weapons. but not the ones who should not.

  3. David October 25, 2017

    Right…with strong gun control legislation, Chicago has seen a dramatic decrease in gun homicides.
    As for suicides, if there wasn’t a gun available, suicides would all stop!
    That damned 2nd Amendment!

    1. bobnstuff October 25, 2017

      Check you facts before posting, Chicago’s gun laws are gone and have been. Gun homicide rate when up when the gun laws went away. Also gun suicides are 98% of the time fetal were all other types are about 2% fetal.

      1. David October 25, 2017

        What?!?!? Oh, I get it…your joking, right?

        1. bobnstuff October 25, 2017

          look it up. Fire arms have the greatest success rate all though Hanging is also effective. Slitting your wrists is the least effective.
          2013 was when the Chicago gun laws were dropped.
          422 murders in 2013, 780 in 2016

          1. David October 28, 2017

            Just got back and thought I would reply to your post. Check the murder rates for many large cities in 2013–New York, Baltimore, etc.–they were all unusually low. It wasn’t because of strong gun control. See, Time magazine.
            The small change in Chicago gun laws were as the result of the Supreme Court ruling they were unconstitutional. You do remember the Constitution, don’t you? There’s that darned 2nd Amendment again!

          2. bobnstuff October 28, 2017

            Chicago’s gun laws didn’t work, all anyone had to do was go out into the suburbs and buy their gun. Two gun shops accounted for a noticeable percentage of guns traced buy the Chicago police.
            District of Columbia v. Heller is the landmark case for second amendment rights and it did find in favor of gun rights but just barely with a 5 to4 finding.

    2. Sand_Cat October 25, 2017

      As usual, you’re citing lies and ignorance. No city can protect itself from nearby areas with non-existent gun laws: a study done of gun violence in Washington, DC, a frequently cited case by ignorant and dishonest gun nuts like you, showed that the vast majority of crimes involving guns were committed with guns purchased legally in neighboring Virginia, where the laws were – to be extremely generous – “lax.”
      But we all know “Jesus” wanted all of you holy “Christians” heavily armed and ready to slaughter the unbelievers, which is why he said such 2nd Amendment treasures as “Love your enemies,” “do good to those who despitefully use you,” and “do not resist evil.”

      1. David October 25, 2017

        Please be so kind as to cite this “study” showing that “the vast majority of crimes involving guns were committed with guns purchased legally in neighboring Virginia…”.
        When you can’t, this will be further evidence of your lying idiocy. Good luck with your research!

        1. Sand_Cat October 25, 2017

          When you cite your “study” for the ridiculous claims you make here on a regualr basis. Maybe I should demand your college transcript a la Trump to validate your claim to have doctorate.
          You certainly show little enough of the intelligence, thoughtfulness, and maturity it should take to obtain one from any Law (or Graduate) School worthy of the name.Why would a Doctor of Laws even have the spare time to troll opposition political sites looking for trouble? Do you even have a job?

          1. David October 26, 2017

            First, it is not a “Doctor of Laws”, it is a Juris Doctorate.
            Second, I am retired after 35 years of practicing law. Finally, as I expected, you are unable to cite your so-called “study”. Hence, I will refer to you now on as the ‘Idiotic Liar’.
            Have a blessed day!

          2. Sand_Cat October 26, 2017

            For you to insult me, I would have to care what you think.
            Call me anything you like; your lies and nastiness say more about you than they do about me.
            Since you both have no facts and deny those inconvenient to you, it’s amusing you think you have something on me because I don’t take notes on everything I read.

          3. David October 26, 2017

            What you “care” about is immaterial. What is material is spreading blatant falsehoods and misrepresenting them as fact. I called you out on it–you can’t support your claim–and, you are nothing more than a proven idiotic liar!
            Have a blessed day!

          4. David October 28, 2017

            “Fact free hypocrite”? It appears that you are the Idiotic Liar for spouting off about “studies” that, in fact, don’t exist.
            My “blessing” is heart felt. I wish the power of the Holy Spirit would come and change the view of abortion loving Democrats like you.
            Have a blessed day!

  4. Just A Citizen October 26, 2017

    When the majority of us discuss “gun violence” we understand we are talking about violence perpetrated by one person upon another. Therefore, suicides should not be included in the gross analysis and conclusions. If you want to try and connect controls with suicide that is fine. Just don’t mix them with actual “violence” and try to make a more general case.

    I find it interesting that these supposed stronger laws discussed in the interview are licensing and background checks. Something that has been required by most states for some time. I also noticed that while criticizing other’s studies this author also fails to directly connect cause and effect. Instead putting for statistical correlation as cause and effect. Not a smart thing to do if your interested in actual scientific understanding.


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