Effects of Gun Laws Cross State Borders, New Study Suggests


MONDAY, Sept. 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Strong gun laws may be negated by more permissive laws in neighboring states, a new study reports.

It found that weaker gun laws appear to increase gun deaths in adjoining states. The finding could support policymakers looking to strengthen gun laws in their state, according to authors of the study published online Sept. 14 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

For the study, more than 578,000 U.S. gun deaths from 2000 to 2017 were analyzed, along with state gun laws.

"Although stronger state gun policies were associated with decreased firearm deaths, the presence of permissive neighboring states undermined this protective effect," said lead investigator Bisakha Sen, of the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

For each weaker gun law in a neighboring state, rates in the state with stronger laws increased 2.5% for firearm homicide; 1.6% for total firearm-related deaths; 1.7% for female firearm deaths; 1.6% for male firearm deaths, and 0.6% for firearm suicide.

"Specifically, higher policy differences across states were associated with increased rates of total firearm deaths, suicides and homicides, although results were statistically stronger for suicide than homicide," Sen said in a journal news release.

Not accounting for weaker firearm laws in neighboring states made it incorrectly appear that a state's laws were about 20% less effective in reducing gun deaths than they actually were, according to the researchers.

"This study adds to the growing literature emphasizing the role played by neighboring states' firearm regulations in addition to own-state firearm regulations in firearm deaths," Sen said.

She said the study suggests that without cooperative legislative actions in neighboring states, efforts in one state to strengthen firearm legislation may be undermined. "Federal gun regulations may be particularly useful because they affect all states," Sen said.

More information

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has more on gun legislation.

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