For decades, Missouri had one of the nation's strongest measures to keep guns from dangerous people: a requirement that all handgun buyers get a gun permit by undergoing a background check in person at a sheriff's office. The legislature repealed that in 2007 and approved other changes, including, last year, lowering the legal age to carry a concealed gun to 19. What has followed may help answer a central question of the gun control debate, says the New York Times: Does allowing people to more easily obtain guns make society safer or more dangerous? It is difficult to isolate the impact of gun laws in a single state, given the pervasiveness of interstate trafficking and illegal markets, but various measures, including a marked increase in police seizures of guns bought in-state, suggest the changes in Missouri's laws have had some effect.
Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that in the first six years after the state repealed the requirement for comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, the gun homicide rate was 16 percent higher than it was the six years before. During the same period, the national rate declined 11 percent. Other measures suggested that criminals had easier access to guns after the permit law was repealed. Federal data show that the share of guns that were linked to crimes soon after they were bought doubled in the state from 2006 to 2010. Criminologist Gary Kleck of Florida State University said he doubted that Missouri's permit law had ever blocked many criminals from getting guns.