Authors: Madeline Bickerstaff
Faculty Mentor: Michelle Phillips
College: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
This article examines the relationship that gun laws and gun ownership rates have with firearm homicide and suicide death rates in the United States. Gun law data was obtained from State Firearm Laws’ database which classifies the presence or absence of 133 different firearm law provisions in each state from 1991-2016. Results indicate that gun ownership rates are associated with lower homicide rates, but higher suicide rates. Similarly, several gun laws had opposite effects on homicide and suicide: may-issue laws and junk gun bans were both associated with higher homicide rates and lower suicide rates, while the age 21 limit for handgun possession and trafficking prohibited laws were associated with lower homicide rates and higher suicide rates. There were, however, two laws that were negatively associated with both homicides and suicides: violent misdemeanor laws and the ban on large capacity magazines. Overall, there doesn’t seem to be a “one policy fits all” solution because homicides and suicides are extremely different from each other and are disproportionately contributing to the firearm death rate. Nevertheless, preventing high risk individuals from obtaining firearms seems to be one of the most effective measures at reducing total gun deaths in the United States.