International Study Shows Broad Gun Control Correlates to Reduced Gun Deaths
Politics| | By Jason Owen
The issue of gun control in the United States is a tenuous one. The United States has an astronomical rate of gun deaths and gun violence, the highest for any industrialized nation in the world. Opponents of gun control say these homicide statistics aren’t because of guns, but because of such other underlying issues as mental health. Proponents of gun control argue the issue is ease-of-access to firearms, and often point to other developed countries and the steps they took to reduce gun violence.
But with so many different laws and regulations throughout numerous countries, the data becomes murky and hard to conclusively show that stricter gun control leads to fewer gun deaths. That is, until a 2016 academic study, “What Do We Know About the Association Between Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Injuries?” published in Epidemiologic Reviews, compiled the data from hundreds of gun studies all across the world and found overwhelming evidence that more gun control led to fewer gun homicides, suicides, and overall gun violence.
“Across countries, instead of seeing an increase in the homicide rate, we saw a reduction,” Julian Santaella-Tenorio, a doctoral student in epidemiology at Columbia University and the study’s lead author, told Vox. Santaella-Tenorio co-authored the study with Columbia professors Magdalena Cerdá and Sandro Galea, along with Andrés Villaveces of the University of North Carolina.
The study examined 130 studies from 10 different countries, along with the specific affects changes in gun laws had on homicide and/or suicide rates, concluding, “The simultaneous implementation of laws targeting multiple firearms restrictions is associated with reductions in firearm deaths.” The study looked at what Vox calls “big packages of gun laws,” that changed gun laws broadly all at once. When those changes were made, the authors found sometimes drastic reductions in death and violence. When laws were loosened, the opposite happened, despite claims by gun advocates that more guns will lead to less death.
It’s important to note that these “big packages” of gun laws generally did not include outright gun bans, but rather three main changes to laws — banning such powerful weapons as assault rifles, implementing a background check system, and requiring gun owners to get permits and licenses before buying a gun. In the United States, specific gun control measures like these have high support, but when discussed broadly as gun control, they receive less support, especially among Republicans.
What were some of the most notable effects of gun control legislation?
In the United States, one study looked at Missouri’s 2007 repeal of its law requiring a permit to purchase a firearm, which Vox noted effectively ended the state’s background check system. That study found a 25 percent increase in the state’s homicide rate. According to the study, no other legislative changes or circumstances could account for the increase.
In comparison, when South Africa passed its comprehensive Firearm Control Act in 2000, all three of the above measures were implemented. One study found that for the next five years, gun homicides in five major South African cities decreased by 13.6 percent per year. Santaella-Tenorio and his co-authors noted from this study that non-firearm homicides also were reduced in this same span, but not as pronounced as firearm homicides. This could indicate that broad gun control measures not only reduce gun violence and deaths but could heavily impact non-firearm related violence as well.
Then there’s Austria’s 1997 sweeping gun laws, which required background checks, limited powerful firearm access, and imposed rules on gun owners regarding storing their guns. Studies conducted following the passage of these new restrictions found a reduction in deaths, with one study showing a 4.8 percent reduction in firearm homicides and a 9.9 percent decrease in suicide, Vox noted.
The most well-known gun control legislation that proponents most point to is Australia’s 1996 National Firearms Agreement, a countrywide crackdown and confiscation of more than 650,000 guns that dramatically strengthened the country’s background check system. Santaella-Tenorio and his co-authors included eight separate studies about Australia’s gun control measures, and all found clear evidence to support the notion that the implementation was directly related to a reduction in firearm deaths, including the fact that Australia has not had a mass shooting since the law’s passage. In the 18 years before the new law, the country had 13 mass shootings, which is defined as a gunman killing five or more people other than himself.
Other than the Missouri study in the United States, Santaella-Tenorio and his co-authors examined other studies that looked at the passage of concealed carry laws or “stand your ground” laws and found that gun deaths had either not been affected or increased afterward.
Is a broad gun ban the answer to America’s gun violence? Probably not. There are legitimate concerns about access to affordable mental health care. But there is considerable evidence to conclude that expanding gun control in three key areas — all of which have high public support — can dramatically impact overall gun violence and death.
What do you think? Do you support changes to ban assault weapons, implement background checks for all gun purchases, and require permits for anybody who wants to own a gun? SHARE your thoughts in the comments.