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New Study Offers Evidence Background Checks Laws Work; Reduce Homicides by 10 Percent

April 1, 2019

I want to make sure you saw the new research out last week that analyzed the relationship between 10 state-level firearm laws on homicide and suicide rates over a 26-year period across 50 states. Among other findings, researchers at Boston University School of Public Health found that states that require a background check on all gun sales had homicide rates 10 percent lower than states without them.

The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, is the first to directly compare a set of state gun laws in one statistical model. 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.

Key findings included:

  • States with laws requiring background checks for all gun sales – by point-of-sale check and/or permit to purchase – 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.

Background checks are the foundation of any effective effort to reduce gun violence and prior studies have shown them to be associated with lower rates of gun homicides, suicides and gun trafficking in states that require them for all handgun sales.

Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 240-190 in favor of H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would require background checks on all gun sales, including unlicensed sales arranged online and at gun shows. This study offers further proof that this is a policy that deserves a vote in the Senate.

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