BOSTON — The debate surrounding gun control in the United States feels like its never been more relevant, but at the same time it also feels as controversial as ever. Now, a study by researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) finds that different gun control regulations seem to be more effective in different areas, suggesting that to stop gun violence nationwide, a “set” of regulations is the answer, not a single all-encompassing law.
In the wake of dozens of Americans losing their lives in early August 2019 due to mass shootings, BUSPH researchers found that laws restricting who can own a gun are generally effective in reducing firearm homicides, but different laws have more of an impact on urban areas while other laws are more effective in rural or suburban environments.
The study found that universal background checks caused a 13% reduction in urban firearm homicide rates. However, background checks surprisingly appeared to have little effect in suburban and rural areas. Meanwhile, laws disqualifying people with violent misdemeanor convictions from purchasing guns caused firearm homicides to drop by 30% in suburban and rural areas, but not urban areas.
While those statistics clearly point to a discrepancy between the effectiveness of certain gun control laws in urban and rural areas, a general permit requirement to purchase and carry a gun did seem to lower firearm homicide rates across both areas with some consistency; urban areas saw a 21% drop and rural or suburban areas saw a 20% drop.
“Taken together and viewed in light of previous research, these findings suggest that a set of laws designed to keep firearms out of the hands of people who are at high risk for violence (especially those with a history of violence) could be effective at substantially reducing overall population rates of firearm homicide,” says lead author Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, in a media release.
The researchers used data from the State Firearm Law Database, a public access database the BUSPH created themselves. Data from the FBI and the US Census was also used to examine gun violence statistics across 48 states between 1991 and 2016. Finally, firearm homicide rates in large cities were compared to rates in the geographic areas just outside of those cities.
It is also worth noting that “may issue” laws were found to cause a 17% drop in urban firearm homicides. Such laws require individuals applying for a concealed carry permit to justify their need to carry a concealed gun.
The study is published in the Journal of Rural Health.