Do gun control laws prevent violence?

Gun control laws are in the media spotlight once again in the wake of the Arizona shooting that killed six people and injured 13 including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  Already, the Arizona Legislature has introduced two new bills that would loosen gun controls on college campuses. But what do we really know about gun control laws?  Is there evidence that they reduce violence?

As unsatisfying as it sounds, the answer is that we just don’t know.  One of the only systematic reviews available on this topic was published by the Community Guide, a resource at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for evidence-based recommendations on improving public health.  It reviewed more than 40 studies on gun control laws ranging from bans to restrictions to waiting periods.  (You can read a summary of the report here.)

The conclusion:  “The evidence available from identified studies was insufficient to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed singly or in combination.” 

Essentially, the review concludes that there is a lack of high-quality studies that evaluate specific gun control laws.  One challenge is that information about guns and who owns them is limited to protect the privacy of firearms owners.

So what do we know about firearms in the U.S.?

We know that firearms are present in about one-third of U.S. households, and that there are handguns in about half of those homes.

We also have a National Violent Death Reporting System, which collects information from death certificates, medical examiner reports and police reports in 19 states. According to the reporting system, 66 percent of all murders and 51 percent of suicides are committed with guns.  But that doesn’t tell us much – like whether the murders and suicides would occur by other means or, given stricter gun control laws, whether the perpetrators would find a way to obtain guns illegally.

The bottom line is that researchers and government officials need to step up to conduct more research and find a proven way to prevent gun violence from taking the lives of innocent citizens.

Comments

  1. lorena says:

    this is not good for the people like the have children in the houses the have and represent other tipes the violent …. etc

  2. sam says:

    Impasse my ass. Want to reduce school shootings? We can’t stop ‘em all but better mental screening of sullen white middle class male adolescents would go a long way to catching those little buggers who want go shoot up things to show the world just how powerful they are. Heck, better screening of that population might catch more serial killers and prospective Wall Street hustlers.

  3. The Wiz says:

    All Gun Control Laws outside of the background check do is strenghten the criminals black market to acquire such things. And gun control laws help the Democrats great desire to dismantle our Bill of Rights. We have more than enough gun control laws on the books. What law every stopped a person with a sick mind or mentally challenged from doing a bad deed. Not one.

  4. Lynne says:

    Here’s why there’s little research. The NRA blocks it with the help of their allies in Congress.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/10/nra-gun-safety_n_2449591.html

  5. Steve says:

    Hollywood and the media should be held responsible for all the violence in America

  6. I am intrigued by the notion of finding “evidence-based” solutions to human behavior problems. Even the conclusion is not evidence-based.

    1. What evidence is there that researchers can find ways to prevent gun violence? Shouldn’t we prove they can do so, before we waste money in trying to do so?

    2. Without considering the rightness or wrongness of a method proves that science is taking upon itself too much. What if we could prevent gun violence by setting up monitors in the homes of every gun owner? What is we could reduce such violence my providing machetes for everyone?

    • Chris Ramos says:

      “1. What evidence is there that researchers can find ways to prevent gun violence? Shouldn’t we prove they can do so, before we waste money in trying to do so?”

      This is just asinine. The whole point of research, at it’s very core, is to better understand Nature. It cannot be understood by simply pontificating from an armchair — one must experiment.

      Moreover, science is not concerned with proofs, but the use of empirical evidence to craft theories of Nature. Human nature is not special in that regard.

      “2. Without considering the rightness or wrongness of a method proves that science is taking upon itself too much. What if we could prevent gun violence by setting up monitors in the homes of every gun owner? What is we could reduce such violence my providing machetes for everyone?”

      The human is typically unsettled by the murder of another human. Science can and does find ways to reduce violence in society. How do you think police become more effective at policing? — they do science! If scientists can find a way that would further mitigate gun violence, then society will decide the “rightness” of the method by accepting it or rejecting it.

      Until good solid research is available, we are stuck at an impasse.

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