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Which US law has been shown to reduce gun violence and mass shootings?

People outside the US Capitol protest gun violence after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas

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Behavioral scientist Andrew Moral leads the Gun Policy in America initiative of RAND, a non-profit research institute.He says New Scientist The latest on why it was so difficult to study gun violence in the United States, how it is starting to change, and all its implications, from background checks and safe storage to the ban on assault weapons. What the evidence shows.

Gracewade: What interventions are effective against gun violence?

Andrew Morral: The Gun Policy in America Initiative provides a systematic review of the impact of gun law on outcomes such as suicide, murder, and mass shooting, as well as participation in gun use, hunting, and sports shooting.

We rated children’s access prevention or safe storage as the strongest evidence of their effectiveness in reducing suicide and injury in adolescent firearms. There is also reasonably good evidence that they reduce firearm casualties, even among the elderly.

However, most states do not have child access prevention laws. That’s because most people who buy firearms, at least pistols, buy firearms for self-defense. Then, if the gun is locked, I feel like I can’t access the gun in an emergency.

This is one of the reasons why safe storage laws do not pass in many states. I’m afraid that the law may have its downsides. However, this trade-off cannot really be evaluated because there is not enough research on the use of defensive guns.

Do you know which law is making things worse?

We have good evidence in support of your basic law, which shows that they have a detrimental effect. These are associated with an increase in firearm murder.

These laws, which expand the situation in which self-defense and lethal power are allowed, have swept the country in the last decade or two. In the past, it was not allowed to use deadly force if we could safely withdraw from the conflict. [Stand your ground laws] Free people from the obligation to retreat.

How about a background check?

There is reasonably good evidence that is our second highest rating. This shows that the federal government needs to reduce firearm killings in this type of background check.

However, it only applies to the sale of firearms from firearm retailers. There are many transactions of firearms between private organizations and are not subject to background checks in many states.

Federal law requiring universal background checks is required [for all sales].. These may improve only the dealer’s, but there is still no great research on it.

What are the danger signal methods and do they work?

They vary from state to state, but apply to people who are likely to pose a risk to themselves or others. Applications for danger signal orders or extreme risk protection orders may be made by people such as family members, law enforcement agencies, or mental health professionals.

The judge then decides whether the person should be allowed to carry firearms. The law is a very limited time, sometimes 16 days. This is an emergency measure, not a permanent injunction.

No studies have created an open and shut case that is effective because it has not been long enough to obtain such evidence.

But there was a really interesting study by Garen Wintemte At the University of California, Davis [looking at whether these laws can reduce mass shootings].. This included 21 case studies in which the red flag command was used. From the anecdotal evidence, they appear to have some real benefits. However, from a research perspective, they are classified as providing strong evidence of causality, but they have not yet been done.

Does the ban on assault weapons prevent gun-related deaths?

Simply put, there is no strong evidence, mainly because it is very difficult to study. Mass shootings are extremely rare and [statistically] It’s a very noisy time series. There is research, but the statistical power is very weak. From the beginning they didn’t have a chance to show anything.

I think it’s very likely that it will affect the least [on the number of] Casualties in mass shootings.

Are there any mental health interventions that make a difference?

This is a tricky topic, but one that seems most obvious is that people with serious mental health are much more likely to be victims of violence.

It can be argued that a better indicator of killing many people is men. Because most men do this.

A visual depiction of different gun policies that can reduce different outcomes.

In this figure, provided by the American Gun Policy Initiative, the thick lines provide more substantive evidence of the effects of gun policy.


For almost 25 years, the US government has not funded research into gun violence. Why not?

In the mid-1990s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted research on the prevention of gun violence. Some people felt it was in favor of gun control.

The CDC didn’t see it that way, but Congress passed the Dicky Amendment in 1996. We also withdrew from the CDC the amount of money we spent to prevent firearm violence. [These restrictions] Expanded to include the National Institutes of Health in 2012.

For almost a quarter of a century, research on firearm violence was largely unsupported by the federal government.

According to one study, given the number of people dying from firearm violence compared to other causes of death, compared to what is expected from federal funding, Only 1.6% was spent..

Now I have government funding …

The Dicky amendment has not been abolished, but Congress has clarified its intentions and allocated funding for research on firearm violence.

I personally trust this. I was witnessing at a diversion hearing And I insisted on the Commission that the Dicky Amendment could be maintained and used as a guardrail. This was the first idea proposed by Mark Rosenberg, director of the CDC’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when the Dicky Amendment was passed. .. The committee finally supported the budget.

The initial funding was in 2020, and its reasonably small program ($ 25 million per year) has survived for three years.

What is the gap in our knowledge of gun violence?

Even when the federal government wasn’t supporting it, some good research was done – but given how serious this is, it’s quite different from what you’d expect. ..

Also, the federal government did not collect the kind of data needed to do much of this work. But as of a few years ago, the government has fully funded the CDC. National violence death reporting system.. So it’s a really big change and a positive change.

Others are retreating. The FBI has stopped reporting unified criminal data and has lost more than 30 years of timeline.

While there is good government data on firearm injuries that lead to hospitalization and treatment in emergency rooms, it is exorbitant for researchers to obtain.

Also, since 2003, the Tiahrt amendment has prevented the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from sharing gun trace data as before, ending many important studies. It remains fully valid.

How is research changing now?

A major change in recent years has been the influx of both private and federal funds, which has allowed us to launch numerous projects.I am the director National collaboration on gun violence research And since 2018, we’ve funded more than 44 projects by about $ 22 million.

while CDC And NIH, the federal government, has funded about 45 or 50 projects at this point.

It’s time to grow in this area. Many people want to solve this problem, understand the problem better, and investigate possible solutions.

How should the conversation about gun violence in the United States change?

Guns are one of the most polarized policy issues we have today. Many have a very well-established view. They aren’t particularly open to new evidence, and that’s a real problem on both sides of this argument – ​​and I really mean both sides to the extreme.

There is a big middle ground in this country of people who are really looking for a solution, and I think they are embracing new information, research and evidence. My hope is that the middle group is large enough, well persuaded by appropriate policy options, and move the policy needle towards better prevention.

This interview has been edited for continuity and length.

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Which US law has been shown to reduce gun violence and mass shootings?

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