Effectiveness of Gun Laws

Effectiveness of the Brady Act and Background Checks

Posted on Sunday, March 18th, 2012

President Bill Clinton signs the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act

Since the enactment of the Brady law in 1994 (March 1, 1994, through December 31, 2008), nearly 1.8 million prohibited persons (e.g., felons, juveniles, mentally ill persons) have been denied a firearm transfer or permit.1

In 2008, 147,080 prohibited persons were denied for a gun transfer or permit, including 77,000 felons.2 On average, 211 felons a day are turned away at gun stores.3

Minimal mistakes are made in denying Brady firearm applications – only 8.3% of all denials in 2008 were later reversed on appeal.4

  1. Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2008 – Statistical Tables, at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/html/bcft/2008/bcft08st.pdf. []
  2. Id. at Table 5. Number of applications, denials, and reasons for denials, 2008, at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/html/bcft/2008/bcft08st.pdf. []
  3. Id. []
  4. Id. at Table 8. ATF investigation of National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) denials by the FBI, 2008, at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/html/bcft/2008/bcft08st.pdf. []

Effectiveness of Child Access Prevention Regulation

Posted on Sunday, March 18th, 2012

In 12 states where child access prevention laws had been in effect for at least one year, unintentional firearm deaths fell by 23% from 1990-94 among children under 15 years of age.1

The practices of keeping firearms locked, unloaded, and storing ammunition in a locked location separate from firearms serve as protective measures that reduce youth suicide and unintentional injury in homes with children and teenagers where guns are stored.2

A study evaluating the association between youth-focused gun laws and suicides among youth found that child access prevention laws were associated with an 8.3% decrease in suicides among 14-17 year olds. Such laws reduced the risk of firearm suicide in this age group by 10.8%.3

  1. Peter Cummings et al., State Gun Safe Storage Laws and Child Mortality Due to Firearms, 278 JAMA 1084, 1084 (Oct. 1997). []
  2. David C. Grossman et al., Gun Storage Practices and Risk of Youth Suicide and Unintentional Firearm Injuries, 293 JAMA 707, 711-13 (Feb. 2005). []
  3. Daniel W. Webster et al., Association Between Youth-Focused Firearm Laws & Youth Suicides, 292 JAMA 594, 596-98 (Aug. 2004). []

Effectiveness of Domestic Violence Gun Prohibitions

Posted on Saturday, March 17th, 2012

Laws that prohibit the purchase of a firearm by a person subject to a domestic violence restraining order are associated with a reduction in the number of intimate partner homicides.1

From November 30, 1998 – August 31, 2011, the prohibited category misdemeanor domestic violence conviction accounted for 93,805, or 10.8% of federal NICS background check denials for a firearm purchase.

[Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Denials, Reasons Why the NICS Section Denies, November 30, 1998–August 31, 2011, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/reports/090111_Denials.pdf.]

In 2009, a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction or restraining order was the second most common reason for denial of a firearm transfer following a background check by a state (14%) or local agency (16%). For FBI background checks only (excluding state or local agency checks), a domestic violence conviction or restraining order was the third most common reason for denying a gun transfer (behind felony convictions/indictments and fugitives).

[Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2009 - Statistical Tables, 2, 13, at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/html/bcft/2009/bcft09st.pdf.]

  1. Elizabeth R. Vigdor et al., Do Laws Restricting Access to Firearms by Domestic Violence Offenders Prevent Intimate Partner Homicide?, 30 Evaluation Rev. 313, 332 (June 2006). []

Effectiveness of Junk Gun Regulation

Posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Maryland’s junk gun ban resulted in an 8.6% decrease in firearm homicides in the state – an average of 40 lives saved per year – between 1990 and 1998.1

  1. Daniel W. Webster et al., Effects of Maryland’s Law Banning “Saturday Night Special” Handguns on Homicides, 155 Am. J. Epidemiology 406, 409-411 (Mar. 2002). Another study on Maryland’s ban showed that the law reduced the use of prohibited junk guns by criminals in Baltimore, finding that a junk gun prohibited in Maryland was more than twice as likely to be the subject of a law enforcement crime gun trace request in 15 other major U.S. cities combined than in Baltimore. Jon S. Vernick et al., Effects of Maryland’s Law Banning Saturday Night Special Handguns on Crime Guns, 5 Inj. Prevention 259, 261-263 (Dec. 1999). []

Effectiveness of Licensing & Registration

Posted on Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

States with some form of both registration and licensing have greater success keeping firearms initially sold by dealers in the state from being recovered in crimes than states without such laws.1

  1. Daniel W. Webster et al., Relationship Between Licensing, Registration, and Other Gun Sales Laws and the Source State of Crime Guns, 7 Inj. Prevention 184, 188-89 (2001). The study included jurisdictions with concealed carry permits and dealer sales reporting, which have elements of licensing or registration but are not comprehensive licensing or registration systems. []

Effectiveness of Large Capacity Ammunition Magazine Regulation

Posted on Monday, March 12th, 2012

The federal ban on large capacity ammunition magazines expired along with the federal assault weapon ban in 2004. Data on recovery of these magazines by law enforcement demonstrate that the federal ban on these dangerous devices was effective in reducing their availability and use.

While the federal assault weapon/large capacity ammunition magazine ban was in effect (1994 – 2004), the Virginia State Police experienced a steady decline in the number of firearms with large capacity magazines recovered in crimes, reaching a low of 10% in 2004. In 2005, the year after Congress failed to renew the ban, that number increased by 24%. By 2010, nearly 22% of guns recovered in crimes had large capacity magazines. Over time, it appears the prevalence of these magazines was declining while the federal law was in effect.1

  1. David S. Fallis et al., About the Project: The Hidden Life of Guns, Wash. Post, Jan. 22, 2011, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/22/AR2011012204243.html; David S. Fallis & James V. Grimaldi, Virginia Data Show Drop in Criminal Firepower During Assault Gun Ban, Wash. Post, Jan. 23, 2011, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2010/12/14/ST2010121406431.html?sid=ST2010121406431. The Washington Post analyzed the effect in Virginia of the assault weapons ban on firearms with large capacity magazines. To do this, Post journalists reviewed data from the Criminal Firearms Clearinghouse, a database maintained by the Virginia State Police that tracks guns recovered by local law enforcement across the state. The database has information on more than 100,000 firearms recovered by more than 200 local police departments since 1993. []

Effectiveness of Restricting Multiple Sales and Purchases

Posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2012

As a result of Virginia’s law restricting multiple sales of handguns in a 30-day period, the odds of tracing a gun originally acquired in the Southeast to a Virginia gun dealer (as opposed to a dealer in a different southeastern state) dropped by 71% for guns recovered in New York, 72% for guns recovered in Massachusetts, and 66% for guns recovered in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts combined. This demonstrates that the law was effective in reducing the number of crime guns traced to Virginia dealers.1

  1. Douglas S. Weil & Rebecca Knox, Evaluating the Impact of Virginia’s One-Gun-A-Month Law, The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence 1, 4-6 (Aug. 1995). In 2004, the Virginia legislature adopted National Rifle Association-backed amendments that significantly weakened the law by allowing concealed handgun permit holders and persons who purchase handguns through private sales to purchase more than one handgun per month. See Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-308.2:2(P)(2). []

Effectiveness of Handgun Bans in Relation to Youth Suicide

Posted on Saturday, March 10th, 2012

As a result of its handgun ban (now repealed due to the Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008)), the District of Columbia has the lowest rate of youth suicide in the nation – lower than any state.1

  1. Violence Policy Center, Safe at Home: How D.C.’s Gun Laws Save Children’s Lives (July 2005), at http://www.vpc.org/studies/dcsuicide.pdf. []

Gun Violence Prevention Efforts Hampered by Lack of Research and Funding

Posted on Thursday, March 1st, 2012

A 2005 report of a committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) assessed the strengths and limitations of existing research on gun violence and gun policy, finding that considerable gaps exist in research and reliable data to evaluate the effectiveness of most gun violence prevention methods.1 The NAS report concluded that a comprehensive research program must be established to effectively evaluate firearm law and policy. The NAS report also noted the critical need for increased funding of gun violence research, particularly by the federal government.2

The NRA Thwarts CDC Research Efforts

The NRA bears significant responsibility for our nation’s lack of quality research about the utility of gun laws. According to a January 25, 2011 article in the New York Times, this funding interference can be traced to a clash between public health scientists and the NRA in the mid-1990s, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were becoming increasingly assertive about the importance of studying gun-related injuries and deaths as a public health issue.3

Afraid of public health findings that would bolster the case for gun safety laws, the NRA influenced its congressional allies in the late 1990s to choke off CDC funding for public health studies, inserting the following language into the CDC’s appropriations bill: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” As noted in the New York Times article, “[t]he prohibition is striking, firearms researchers say, because there are already regulations that bar the use of C.D.C. money for lobbying for or against legislation. No other field of inquiry is singled out in this way.”4

  1. See Committee on Law and Justice, National Research Council, Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review (2005). []
  2. Id., Janet Weiner et al., Reducing Firearm Violence: A Research Agenda, 13 Inj. Prevention 80, 80 (2007). []
  3. Michael Luo, N.R.A. Stymies Firearms Research, Scientists Say, N.Y. Times (Jan. 25, 2011), at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/us/26guns.html?pagewanted=all. []
  4. Id. []