A study released last week by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association): Internal Medicine shows a direct correlation between gun laws and gun-related fatalities. While the study is mainly based on the number of gun laws, not the type (it doesn’t, for example, specify which particular laws are the most effective), it confirms that generally speaking, stricter gun laws result in fewer deaths.
The report, entitled “Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States,” developed a method for rating states depending on the degree of the gun laws in place. How far state laws go to control gun trafficking, effectiveness of a background-check system, focus on child safety, restriction on military-style assault weapons, and whether state laws allow individuals to carry guns in public places were all considered when ranking each state.
The states that come in at the top of the list for strong gun laws are Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York. Aside from California, which is closer to the median, these states also have the lowest average of firearms deaths per year. The states on the other end of the list—those with the most lenient gun laws—include Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Utah, all of which have among the highest percentage of deaths per year.
The authors conclude from their data that just owning a gun puts individuals at risk, and the federal government should focus on limiting gun ownership entirely. “One way that firearm legislation may act to reduce firearm fatalities is through reducing firearm prevalence. Studies have shown a strong connection between gun ownership and firearm suicideand firearm homicide,” says the report. “A cross-sectional study of all 50 states from 2001 to 2003 found that higher rates of household firearm ownership were associated with significantly higher rates of homicide.”
The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has stood adamantly against the implementation of new federal gun laws, citing these measures as an all-out attack on responsible gun owners with a view to taking away their guns, and a complete waste of time since the government fails to enforce laws already in place. LaPierre has completely ignored and opposed proposals that include universal background checks, banning military-style weapons, and outlawing high-capacity magazines. During an interview, the NRA CEO tried to shift blame for growing gun violence when he said, “Look, a gun is a tool. The problem is the criminal.”
At the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), LaPierre said, “Across the board, violent crime in jurisdictions that recognize the right to carry is lower than in areas that prevent it.” During a January Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) repeated this statement nearly verbatim. The problem with this logic is that there are far too many exceptions when piecing together a direct connection between any one lax gun law and a decrease in gun-related violence—other factors in society can trigger an increase or decrease.
The JAMA study focuses on gun-related fatalities, as opposed to gun-related violence. It also doesn’t delve into the specificity of each law, but instead measures the efficacy of all gun laws in each respective state by assigning one point for every law passed, all while taking into consideration the magnitude of the laws and the state’s demographic data.
Read the results of the study here.
A 2004 study by The National Academies Press called “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review” shows that since the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban (which expired in 2004) was passed, total murder rates and handgun murder rates have declined considerably.
In the 1990s, Congress voted to reduce funding for the Centers for Disease Control, a leading research source on gun control. Before the funding was cut, the CDC found that having a gun in the home put families at a far higher risk for suicide and homicide. President Obama signed an executive order that provides funding to the CDC for this type of research, which is telling of the president’s commitment to passing effective, sensible legislation.
LaPierre, Sen. Cruz, and other opponents of stricter gun laws can make claims that more lenient gun laws lead to a decrease in gun violence, but the data to support those claims is plainly non-existent. The JAMA study reiterates what a recent Quinnipiac University poll points out: A majority of Americans support stricter gun laws despite opposition from the NRA and NRA-funded Republicans—and it’s in the people’s best interests to do so.
Hat Tip: Think Progress