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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/31/19

Three kinds of gun laws save lives

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Message Robert Adler
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New research by public health specialists at the Boston University School of Public Health and Boston Children's Hospital shows that three kinds of gun laws save lives, and they all are designed to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of violent people.

Confiscated firearms, California, 2011
Confiscated firearms, California, 2011
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Community health researcher Michael Siegel and his colleagues performed the first simultaneous controlled statistical study of the relationship between different gun laws and homicides in all 50 states, covering the years 1991 through 2016. Out of many different kinds of gun-related laws they studied, they found that three had powerful positive or negative impacts. Universal background checks preventing convicted violent felons from owning guns produced a 15 percent reduction in overall homicides. Laws blocking people convicted of violent misdemeanors cut the homicide rate by 18 percent. In contrast, "shall issue" laws that prevent authorities from using any discretion in granting concealed-carry permits resulted in a 9 percent higher homicide rate.

The researchers found that states with positive forms of all three laws--universal background checks preventing both felons and people with violent misdemeanors from buying or owning guns, and laws giving authorities the right to deny concealed-carry requests from people deemed risks to themselves or others--benefited from 33 percent lower homicide rates.

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For this study, the researchers excluded deaths from legal interventions (e.g. deaths at the hands of police), accidental firearm deaths and firearm deaths whose intent wasn't determined--in total 4.5 percent of firearm-related deaths. They also controlled statistically for many variables known to impact firearm fatalities, including the racial mix of each state, the percentage of young men between the ages of 15 to 29, divorce, unemployment, poverty, and the rate of violent crimes other than homicide.

and the rate of violent crimes other than homicideand the rate of violent crimes They found that limiting dangerous people's access to guns is the most effective legal intervention, saving more lives than, for example, trying to limit the kinds of firearms that are available. Asked to summarize the implications of the study for policy makers, Siegel writes:

"Our research suggests that focusing on the "WHO" (i.e., who has access to firearms) is more impactful than focusing on the WHAT (i.e. what types of firearms are allowed). Based on these findings, the priorities for state policy makers should be: (1) universal background checks; (2) laws that prohibit gun purchase or possession by people with a history of violence (a conviction); and (3) extreme risk protection order laws that provide a mechanism for removing guns from people at high risk of violence to themselves or others."

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Given that between 10 and 20 thousand Americans die every year from gun violence, laws implementing these recommendations in all 50 states could and would save thousands of lives.

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You can access the research paper, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, at this URL.

(Article changed on March 31, 2019 at 13:52)

(Article changed on March 31, 2019 at 14:39)

(Article changed on March 31, 2019 at 18:54)

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Robert Adler Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linked In Page       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I'm a retired psychologist and freelance writer focusing on science, technology and fact-based political and social commentary.

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6 people are discussing this page, with 17 comments


Robert Adler

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The stalemated debate about gun control could benefit from some actual facts. The research reported in this article provides a reliable focus for anyone, including state legislators, whose main goal is to save lives rather than blindly back a particular position for or against gun control.

Submitted on Sunday, Mar 31, 2019 at 1:25:13 PM

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Richard Pietrasz

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The Siegal et al study did not address gun homicides committed by law enforcement in USA. Had it done so, it would likely have been discredited in USA by the right wing, cops, and cop lovers.


Most people do not realize that homicides committed by cops have gone way up in the past 25 or 30 years, by a factor of over 5, although USA is not more violent overall.


There are some fixes to improve the situation that have been proven. One is to eliminate two officer patrols and only use one officer patrols, so that if the officer senses a dangerous situation, the protocol would be to call for backup and use the time to assess the situation and calm down. Excited people have limited sensory capability and poor judgment, and that is true of ordinary people and with cops.


This is not secret information. The public is insufficiently outraged to force law enforce and government to take effective action; the mass media share major blame for public misunderstanding.

Submitted on Sunday, Mar 31, 2019 at 7:14:42 PM

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BFalcon

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You claim that it is proven that one officer patrol has fewer homicides than two officer patrol?

Submitted on Sunday, Mar 31, 2019 at 8:47:17 PM

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Robert Adler

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Reply to BFalcon:   New Content

Thanks for commenting. There've been quite a few studies over the years identifying one or two factors that can reduce the rate of officer-involved deaths. From what I've read, what's really needed is more training, especially in de-escalating volatile confrontations, such as with mentally ill people or people on drugs, but even more importantly, changes in the rules of engagement to bring US police agencies more in line with those in other countries, where officers are allowed to use lethal force only as a last resort. You can check out something I wrote about this a few years ago here.

Submitted on Monday, Apr 1, 2019 at 4:10:03 AM

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Richard Pietrasz

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Not necessarily more training, but better training. There is at least one, and almost certainly more, people, who train cops to kill more often.


Given the US war record, the fact that military veterans are given preference for hiring and constitute 15% of all police in USA is considerable evidence that the large number of police killings is deliberate by both Congress and most police departments.



Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2019 at 9:18:09 PM

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Richard Pietrasz

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Reply to BFalcon:   New Content

Malcom Gladwell, in his popular 2005 book Blink, devotes over 20% of the book to police shootings. He specifically addresses the issue of pursuit, and cites two studies with strong conclusions about one versus two in patrol.


Proven is a strong word, but one whose definition varies a lot depending on context.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2019 at 9:28:37 PM

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Robert Adler

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Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I've written previously about killings by police. Check out the post on my blog, zerospinzone.blogspot.com:

There are so many more police killings per capita in the US than in other developed countries that it implies that we have a very different police culture. In most other countries, police are authorized and trained to use lethal force only as a last resort. In the US, the bar is much, much lower. Typically US police are allowed, and perhaps within some police agencies more-or-encouraged, to use lethal force if they think/feel/suspect that they or someone else may be in danger. It's a major problem, with the greatest impact on Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.

Submitted on Monday, Apr 1, 2019 at 3:33:11 AM

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Richard Pietrasz

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The way I see it, USA has very few police; instead it mostly has internal soldiers who are not subject to the US Constitution or generally accepted goals and methods of policing.

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2019 at 9:05:09 PM

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I think that at least for many minority communities, especially Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, the police are more like an occupying force than they are public servants there to "serve and protect."

Submitted on Wednesday, Apr 3, 2019 at 9:21:23 PM

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BFalcon

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I believe that I have read somewhere that tracking ammunition purchases also reduced homicides.

Submitted on Sunday, Mar 31, 2019 at 8:47:51 PM

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Laurita Pescador

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Very interesting, Beto. Knowing these changes can be made by states is heartening.

Submitted on Sunday, Mar 31, 2019 at 10:37:02 PM

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Glad you read the piece. Many thanks for your comment.

Submitted on Monday, Apr 1, 2019 at 3:34:31 AM

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Joe Chiappone

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As far as this article goes, its study seems to be a rehash of laws that already exist with one dicey new alternative. Right off the bat, I admit that I am a gun owner. Multiple guns, lots and lotsa ammo. I shoot regularly once or twice a week at a range, and belong to a gun club.

So I know what I'm talking about as far as buying guns at least in the state of Texas.

And here is what happens: you are asked to fill out a sheet certifying that you are not a felon, mentally defective, not guilty of certain misdemeanors even. (And other questions. Lying on the form itself is a felony.) Of course the FFL dealer doesn't just take your word for it. S/he calls up the FBI and checks, while you are standing there. I don't know what happens to a suddenly discovered felon, because I've always been cleared.

So, IMO, we already have a "universal" background check AND database on everyone who has ever bought a gun in the state of Texas. Your very buying a gun triggers a federal process. Which prohibits gun purchase by violent felons. The 3rd proposal of the article's study - that someone in law enforcement can suddenly and arbitrarily decide I can't have a gun anymore - is problematic. (Real people who know me...yeah, by all means. Some bureaucrat somewhere, no)

Submitted on Monday, Apr 1, 2019 at 7:39:30 PM

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And one more thing. If I lived in the country (I don't) I would rather be armed and skilled in firearms than to be none of those things and have to wait 20 minutes for the police to arrive. And please, BFalcon, don't waste the police's time tracking ammo sales. I shoot a lot, I buy a lot of ammo, as do millions of other shooting sportsters. We neither increase nor decrease homicides.

Submitted on Monday, Apr 1, 2019 at 7:53:11 PM

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Robert Adler

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Thanks for your interest an comment. According to the data in the article, Texas doesn't have universal background checks, which would include checks for private purchases or transfers of firearms. I'm guessing that what you've experienced is compliance with federal regulations when you have purchased guns from certified dealers. From the data in the article, it appears that Texas is just about in the middle of the 50 states in terms of homicides and suicides per 100,000 population. According to the CDC, Texas had 1653 homicides in 2017. If the relationships reported in the study are correct, implementing the three laws the authors recommend could cut that rate by 1/3, saving around 550 lives. BTW, the third law discussed just applies to people applying for concealed carry permits, not to gun purchases.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 2, 2019 at 2:03:34 AM

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Kenneth Morris

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Interesting study. I clicked the link to skim the full study but didn't get it. It's probably there and I just didn't hunt long enough, but no matter, I'll trust the summary.

I do wish that I knew what other factors the researchers examined that didn't have much effect. For example, I strongly suspect that what I call "weapons inflation" and define as the increasing capacity and power of handguns over recent decades is a factor, but I doubt this could have been examined because I'm unaware of restrictions along these lines anywhere in the US. Usually restrictions are limited to assault-style weapons.

Regarding the findings reported, as someone who veers pro-gun but favors "sensible gun control," the main two findings strike me as a sensible basis for restrictions. As long as a conviction is required to deny a person a gun, I can't complain. I do though complain when a mere accusation is enough to deny a person a gun, as some jurisdictions are doing. Men being accused of domestic violence is a normal part of contested divorces and child custody cases. Let's wait for a conviction please.

But I do have reservations about "shall issue" laws. This is a tough issue that I'd have to look into more before forming a firm opinion, but I really don't want to empower clerks or cops to subjectively decide who is denied a gun. That opens a wide door to all kinds of prejudices, though if there are safeguards against those prejudices, it's probably a good policy too.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 2, 2019 at 2:55:39 AM

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Robert Adler

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Reply to Kenneth Morris:   New Content

Thanks for your interest and comment. Sorry about access to the full article. The link gets you to an abstract of the article, but the full piece is behind the publisher's paywall. The researchers studied a total of ten kinds of laws--universal background checks, violent misdemeanor prohibition, age 21 limit for handgun purchase, shall issue (e.g. concealed-carry authorities have no discretion), permitless carry, trafficking prohibited, junk-gun prohibition, stand your ground law, assault weapons ban, and large capacity magazine ban.

Submitted on Tuesday, Apr 2, 2019 at 3:08:59 AM

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