More State Gun Laws Correlated With Fewer Gun Deaths; Causation Unproved


States with more gun laws have fewer gun-related deaths, says a new study from Boston Children’s Hospital reported by USA Today. One critic argues that the study fails to take into account several important factors such as the types of laws, enforcement of laws, and gun ownership rates in states. “Our research gives clear evidence that laws have a role in preventing firearms deaths,” said Eric Fleegler, the study’s lead investigator and a pediatric emergency doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital. Fleegler and researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health studied information from all 50 states between 2007 to 2010, analyzing all firearm-related deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and data on firearm laws from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

States with the most laws had a mortality rate 42 percent lower than those states with the fewest laws. The strong law states’ firearm-related homicide rate was 40 percent lower and their firearm-related suicide rate was 37 percent lower. The study found that laws requiring universal background checks and permits to purchase firearms were most clearly associated with decreasing rates of gun-related homicides and suicides. Researchers did not establish a cause and effect relationship between guns and deaths, only an association. That failure illustrates the limits of the study, said Garen Wintemute of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, explaining that the study doesn’t provide critical answers to which laws work and why. Researchers must look at how several factors including culture, gun ownership, and gun trafficking between states, he said.

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