London: Not much research has been done on the effectiveness of gun control laws, but a new study has pointed out which gun laws actually work.
The nationwide study analysing gun-control laws in the USA has found that just nine of the 25 state laws are effective in reducing firearm deaths. The research suggests that if all the US states were to expand the three laws that have the strongest effect on gun deaths - universal background checks for purchasing guns and ammunition and firearm identification, the national rate of gun deaths could be cut by over 90 percent.
Lead author Dr Bindu Kalesan from the Boston University said that the study is the first to examine the impact of specific gun laws on gun-related deaths across the USA while taking account of a range of other factors such as gun ownership and unemployment.
Kalesan added that the findings suggest that very few of the existing state gun-control laws actually reduce gun deaths, highlighting the importance of focusing on relevant and effective gun legislation. Background checks for all people buying guns and ammunition, including private sales, are the most effective laws we have to reduce the number of gun deaths in the USA.
More than 90 people are killed every day by guns in the USA. In 2010, 31672 gun deaths were recorded, equivalent to 10.1 deaths per 100000 people. Hawaii recorded the lowest rate of gun deaths (45 deaths per year) at 3.31 per 100000 citizens, while Alaska (144) topped the table at 20.3 per 100000.
The US states have introduced a range of gun laws to strengthen or deregulate the main federal gun control law, the Brady Law, which requires background checks for gun purchases from a federally-licensed dealer. However, around 40 percent of all gun sales in America are estimated to be private transactions that do not require background checks.
The findings show that nine laws are associated with a reduced likelihood of gun deaths, nine with increased gun deaths, and seven did not show any conclusive association (figure page 4). For example, laws that restrict firearm access to children (eg, locks and age restrictions) were shown to be ineffective, while stand-your-ground laws that allow an individual to use deadly force in self-defence significantly increased gun-related deaths. These findings persisted even after removing the effect of other factors that might affect gun deaths such unemployment and gun exports.
Although not the final word, the study by Kalesan and colleagues is a step in the right direction of trying to bring more scientific evidence to bear on the types of policies that could be most effective in reducing the serious gun-violence problem in the USA.
The study appears in the Lancet....