Science & Technology



The stronger a state's gun laws, the lower its rate of gun-related homicides and suicides

Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

The distribution of death rates from firearms, however, is far from uniform across the country. Guns were the cause of death in 3.4 in every 100,000 deaths in Massachusetts that year, according to the CDC. In Louisiana, guns caused 21.3 of every 100,000 deaths, and 23.3 of every 100,000 deaths in Alaska.

Those facts have prompted a new line of firearms injury research focusing not just on whether and how well state gun laws work to reduce gun injuries, but how a neighboring state can support or undermine a state's efforts to curb gun violence.

One recent study, for instance, found that gun shows in Nevada -- a state with very relaxed gun laws -- were associated with short-term increases in violence in nearby areas of California. However, gun shows in California -- which has the nation's strictest gun laws -- were not linked with spikes in gun violence in neighboring Nevada.

The new research found that, across the country, the highest rates of homicides committed with a gun were in counties at the edges of states that had relaxed gun laws, and that were also close to other states with few or no restrictions on guns. Those counties tended to be scattered across the nation's Southeast states, stretching from eastern Texas to as far north as mid-Kansas, then to the east across Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi and into Florida.

But in counties in a state with very lax gun laws, gun-related homicides were found to be lower when a closely neighboring state had adopted very strict gun laws. Examples include the counties of Nevada and Arizona that are next door to California, and counties in the northeastern quadrant of Missouri that border Illinois.

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"Strengthening state firearm policies may prevent firearm suicide and homicide, with benefits that may extend beyond state lines," the study authors concluded.

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