Gun violence is a continuing problem in the United States. So far in 2015, more than 10,000 people have died because of gun-related violence, including nearly 3,000 children and teens. Personally, whenever I hear about a shooting at a school or church, I’m shocked by the senseless loss of lives. And I wonder what we, as citizens, can do about it?
One option is to elect officials who will enact laws aimed at preventing gun violence. The non-profit Annual Reviews published a systematic review earlier this year delving into the evidence on laws to prevent high-risk individuals from obtaining guns. The literature review includes 62 studies published from 1999 to 2014.
The review drew some interesting conclusions:
- More than half of people who commit crimes with guns are qualified, under federal law, to own a gun.
- Criminals who are prevented from purchasing a weapon from a licensed gun dealers are less likely to engage in violent crime. Some expansions in the conditions that disqualify an individual from legally owning a gun, such as restraining orders and misdemeanor convictions, seem to reduce violence.
- There is some evidence that laws created to increase the accountability of firearm sellers — such as requiring background checks, overseeing gun sellers, and requiring permits for handgun sales — help prevent guns from landing in the hands of criminals.
While the evidence does shed some light on policies to prevent gun violence, the authors believe that more research is needed to help us understand what other polices can prevent gun-related criminal activity, and specifically how different types of laws work together in the criminal justice system.
The take-home message here is complex, to be sure. But from my read of the data, there are polices our government can enact to help prevent gun violence. It’s certainly a topic that will be on my mind as I cast my vote for legislators in the upcoming federal election.