New research shows that certain gun laws can reduce the rates of homicide and suicide. One study focused on risk-based firearm seizure laws—also called red-flag laws—which allow law enforcement to remove guns from people considered to pose an imminent risk of serious harm to themselves or others. The researchers found “meaningful reductions” in firearm suicide rates as a result of these seizure laws. Another study found that in states requiring a permit to buy a gun, large urban areas had fewer firearm homicides and no increase in murders by other means.
“These studies provide additional insight into options for state and federal legislation that can reduce the likelihood that someone who is at risk for causing harm to themselves or others would possess a gun,” American Nurses Association president Pamela F. Cipriano told AJN. “Reduction of firearm homicides and tragic suicides seen with enforcement of permit-to-purchase and risk-based firearm seizure laws are examples of commonsense measures and need not be politically divisive.”
Firearm seizure laws have typically been enacted in response to mass shootings, but they largely function to keep firearms away from suicidal individuals. In studying the effect of these laws, researchers used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all 50 states from 1981 to 2015, then focused on Connecticut and Indiana, the first states to enact risk-based gun seizure laws. The numbers of firearm-related suicides in each state were analyzed before and after the laws were enacted. “These findings suggest that firearm seizure legislation is associated with meaningful reductions in population-level firearm suicide rates,” the researchers concluded, although they noted that the evidence was mixed as to the effect on overall suicide rates.
The study of the effect of firearm permit laws found that although firearm homicides and overall murder rates were lower in urban areas, the laws had the opposite effect in states with fewer firearm restrictions. States that “encourage more public gun carrying with fewer restrictions on who can carry experience more gun homicides in the state's large, urban counties than would have been expected had the law not been implemented,” lead author Cassandra K. Crifasi said in a news release. “Similarly, stand-your-ground laws appear to make otherwise nonlethal encounters deadly if people who are carrying loaded weapons feel emboldened to use their weapons versus deescalating a volatile situation.”—Serena Stockwell
Crifasi CK, et al. J Urban Health
2018;95(3):383-90; Kivisto AJ, Phalen PL. Psychiatr Serv
2018 Jun 1 [Epub ahead of print].