BACKGROUND Legal firearm sales occur largely through suppliers that have Federal Firearm Licensees (FFLs). Since FFL density might reflect ease-of-access to firearm purchases, we hypothesized that the number of FFL dealers would be associated with firearm-related deaths. We further hypothesized that licensee-type subsets would be associated with differential risks for gun-related deaths.
METHODS We used data from the National Center for Health Statistics National Vital Statistics System (2008–2014) and national data on Federal Firearms Licensees for 2014. Correlation analysis and linear regression analysis were performed to determine the relationship between different licensee types and firearm-related deaths. We controlled for population, number of statewide registered firearms, and the density of other types of FFLs.
RESULTS We identified a total of 65,297 FFLs. There was a moderate correlation (R = 0.53, ρ = 0.48) between total FFL density and firearm-related death rates. Further analysis by type of firearm-related death showed a strong correlation (R = 0.81, ρ = 0.76) between total FFL density and firearm-related suicide rates. No correlation was found between total FFL density and firearm-related homicide rate. Among individual FFL types, FFL02 (firearm dealing pawnshop) density was the only FFL-type found to be correlated with firearm-related death rates. We found a strong correlation between FFL02 density and overall firearm-related death rate (R = 0.69, ρ = 0.78) and firearm-related suicide rate (R = 0.72, ρ = 0.78). Linear regression analysis showed that even while controlling for number of registered firearms and population, the number of firearm-dealing pawnshops remained significantly associated with overall firearm-related deaths and firearm-related suicides.
CONCLUSION Access to legally distributed firearms is associated with firearm-related death rates, particularly firearm-related suicides. Specifically, firearm-dealing pawnshops were associated with suicide-related deaths. These findings suggest that deeper exploration of legal firearm access and firearm-related injuries would benefit discussion of preventative measures.