January 25, 2013

Data weak on effectiveness of gun laws

Washington Times - A review of recent state laws by The Washington Times shows no discernible correlation between stricter rules and lower gun-crime rates in the states.

States that ranked high in terms of making records available to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System also tended to have tighter gun laws — but their gun-crime rates ranged widely. The same was true for states that ranked poorly on disclosure and were deemed to have much less stringent gun-possession laws.

For example, New York, even before it approved the strictest gun-control measures in the country last week, was ranked fourth among the states in strength of gun laws by the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, but was also in the top 10 in firearm homicide rates in 2011, according to the FBI.

Meanwhile, North Dakota was near the bottom in its firearm homicide, firearm robbery and firearm assault rates, but also had some of the loosest gun laws and worst compliance with turning over mental health records to the background check system.

Analysts said the data underscore that there are no simple or easy broad answers to combating gun violence, which is a complex equation involving gun-ownership rates, how ready authorities are to prosecute gun crimes and how widely they ban ownership.

Gary Kleck, a criminology professor at Florida State University, said in an email that a simple comparison between states’ strength of gun laws and gun-crime rates doesn’t say much about the effects of the laws because the exercise fails to control for other factors such as gun-ownership rates.

In an exhaustive analysis with data from 170 U.S. cities that did control for such factors, Mr. Kleck and fellow researcher E. Britt Patterson concluded that there was no general impact of gun-control laws on crime rates — with a few notable exceptions.

“There do appear to be some gun controls which work, all of them relatively moderate, popular and inexpensive,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, there is support for a gun-control policy organized around gun-owner licensing or purchase permits (or some other form of gun-buyer screening); stricter local dealer licensing; bans on possession of guns by criminals and mentally ill people; stronger controls over illegal carrying; and possibly discretionary add-on penalties for committing felonies with a gun.

“On the other hand, popular favorites such as waiting periods and gun registration do not appear to affect violence rates,” he said.



Anonymous said...

There is little proof that gun laws stop gun violence, but most shooters are either on or getting off of anti depressants and similar medications, are mentally ill or distressed and not getting help or treatment, are dealing with serious poverty and lack of work, or involved in illegal drugs or gangs. It seems to me that perhaps a more constructive way to deal with gun violence would be to offer single payer healthcare including mental heathcare and therapy, end drug prohibition, and raise the minimum wage and create family wage jobs. Then perhaps a reasonable discussion about what gun laws are really needed could begin.

Anonymous said...

Quite right, 1124. The vast majority of shooting episodes can be sorted into 3 bins: suicide, dispute resolution, and madness. The residue -quite a small one- are accidents.

So to eliminate nearly all shooting deaths, provide better ways to end one's life, impartially resolve disputes (even between criminals), and get prompt, effective, non-stigmatising treatment for mental/emotional problems.

It would be far more expensive than just grabbing the guns, but at least it would actually work, which grabbing would not.