In 1991, California implemented a law that mandated a background check for all firearm purchases with limited exceptions (comprehensive background check or CBC policy) and prohibited firearm purchase and possession for persons convicted within the past 10 years of certain violent crimes classified as misdemeanors (MVP policy). We evaluated the population effect of the simultaneous implementation of CBC and MVP policies in California on firearm homicide and suicide.
Quasi-experimental ecological study using the synthetic control group methodology. We included annual firearm and nonfirearm mortality data for California and 32 control states for 1981–2000, with secondary analyses up to 2005.
The simultaneous implementation of CBC and MVP policies was not associated with a net change in the firearm homicide rate over the ensuing 10 years in California. The decrease in firearm suicides in California was similar to the decrease in nonfirearm suicides in that state. Results were robust across multiple model specifications and methods.
CBC and MVP policies were not associated with changes in firearm suicide or homicide. Incomplete and missing records for background checks, incomplete compliance and enforcement, and narrowly constructed prohibitions may be among the reasons for these null findings.