Someone finally did a comprehensive catalogue of the sparse research on gun safety, so now, despite the best efforts of the NRA and Congressional Republicans to shut down testing, we have the the beginnings of a knowledge base on fun safety:
Gun control discussions often get mired in competing academic claims regarding the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of various policy options.
Do concealed carry laws increase violent crime or make communities safer? Do assault weapon bans reduce mass shootings or do they have no effect? Do background checks reduce homicides and suicides or are they ineffective?
With so many disparate findings swirling about, it can be difficult to determine where the balance of evidence lies. But a report from Rand Corp., a nonprofit think tank, has distilled reams of gun policy research published since 1995 to tease out the scholarly consensus.
Not all academic studies are created equal. Many simply show correlations between various phenomena — links between assault weapon bans and mass shootings, for instance, or between suicide rates and gun purchasing habits. Such research can be useful when higher-quality data isn’t available.
But policymaking requires higher-caliber evidence, from studies that go beyond simple correlations to demonstrate a causal effect. Distinguishing those studies from less-powerful ones was one of the chief objectives of the Rand report.
They narrowed down thousands of studies to those that met high standards for causal evidence — just 123 of them since 1995. Taken together, this research yielded a number of conclusions.
First, there was a clear consensus (indicated by three or more high-quality studies in agreement) that stand-your-ground laws, which allow people to use guns to defend themselves in public even if retreating is an option, result in higher overall rates of gun homicide. The higher rates aren’t simply from “bad guys” getting shot; the research shows the additional deaths created by stand-your-ground laws far surpass the documented cases of defensive gun use in the United States.
There was also a broad consensus that child access prevention laws, which set requirements for how guns must be stored at home, are effective in reducing self-inflicted gun injuries among children and adults.
No other policy realm showed the clear scholarly consensus as did stand-your-ground and child access prevention, although there were a number of cases in which the research yielded more moderate evidence of a policy’s effect, by way of two or more high-quality studies in agreement.
This could be a basis for common sense gun laws, which is why the NRA has strenuously opposed any funding for studies for decades.