How have firearm laws changed in states with unexpected decreases or increases in firearm homicide, 1990–2019?

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How have firearm laws changed in states with unexpected decreases or increases in firearm homicide, 1990–2019?

Category: Firearm Policies, Homicide|Journal: SSM - Population Health (full text)|Author: D Wiebe, E Kaufman, J Goldstick, J Gravel, M Degli Esposti, M Delgado, T Richmond|Year: 2023

Background

Firearm violence is one of the leading preventable causes of death and injury in the United States and is on the rise. While policies regulating access to firearms offer opportunities to prevent firearm-related deaths, an understanding of the holistic impact of changing state firearm policies on firearm homicide rates over the last 30 years is limited.

 

Objectives

To identify US states that showed unexpected decreases and increases in firearm homicide rates and summarise their firearm policy changes in the last three decades.

 

Methods

We analysed changes in firearm homicide rates by US state and county from 1990 to 2019. We triangulated across three estimation approaches to derive state rankings and identify the top and bottom three states which consistently showed unexpected decreases (low outliers) and increases (high outliers) in firearm homicide rates. We summarised firearm policy changes in state outliers using the RAND State Firearm Law Database.

 

Results

We identified New York, District of Columbia, and Hawaii as low state outliers and Delaware, New Jersey, and Missouri as high state outliers. Low state outliers made more restrictive firearm policy changes than high state outliers, which covered a wider range of policy types. Restrictive changes in high state outliers primarily targeted high-risk populations (e.g., prohibited possessors, safe storage). Specific legislative details, such as the age threshold (18 vs 21 years old) for firearm minimum age requirements, also emerged as important for differentiating low from high state outliers.

 

Conclusions

While no firearm law change emerged as necessary or sufficient, an accumulation of diverse restrictive firearm policies may be key to alleviating the death toll from firearm homicide.

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