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Boston University Study Finds States That Require Background Checks on All Gun Sales Experience Lower Homicide Rates

March 29, 2019

Study Found That States with Laws Requiring a Background Check on Every Gun Sale Experienced Homicide Rates That Were 10 Percent Lower Than States Without Such Laws

In February, U.S. House Voted in Favor of Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019; the First Time Major Gun Safety Legislation Has Passed the House in More than 20 Years

WASHINGTON—Everytown for Gun Safety released the following statement today in response to a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, authored by Dr. Michael Siegel and others at Boston University School of Public Health researchers that found states that require a background check on all gun sales had homicide rates 10 percent lower than states without them. Its results underscore that keeping guns out of the hands of those who pose a danger to themselves or others — through policies like requiring background checks on all gun sales — is an effective way to curb gun violence.

“Dr. Siegel raises an urgent question for our leaders in Washington: If comprehensive state background checks are associated with a 10% drop in homicide rates, why shouldn’t these requirements be the law of the land?” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “The U.S. House has done its part — now it’s time for the Senate to put public safety first and close the gaping loopholes in our federal background checks law.”

Key findings include:

  • States with laws requiring background checks for all gun sales – by point-of-sale check and/or permit – were associated with 10 percent lower homicides rates.
  • Laws prohibiting the possession of firearms by people who have been convicted of a violent misdemeanor crime were associated with an 19 percent reduction in state homicide rates.
  • Laws requiring law enforcement to grant concealed carry permits in certain circumstances were associated with a 11 percent increase in homicide rates.

Under current federal law, background checks are required only for gun sales by licensed firearm dealers. No background check is required for sales by unlicensed sellers. This means that an unlicensed seller can sell a gun to a stranger they meet online or at gun shows – with no background check, no questions asked.

Since the background check system was established 25 years ago, Congress has failed to close the loopholes that enable individuals including convicted felons, domestic abusers and people who have been adjudicated mentally ill by a court of law to buy guns without a background check. In that time, the internet has emerged as a massive, unregulated marketplace, where a recent investigation found nearly 1.2 million ads on were for firearm sales where no background check was required. The investigation also found that 1 in 9 people trying to buy a gun online would fail a background check, but that states that have passed a background check law see nearly 85 percent of unlicensed online sellers indicate a check is required to complete the sale. Federal background checks legislation would update the law to fit the times by requiring background checks on all gun sales — not just those sold in brick-and-mortar stores, but in all the places they’re sold today, including by unlicensed sellers offering guns for sale online or at gun shows.

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