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Study: More Gun Laws = Fewer Gun Deaths

By Alan Lyndon

States with the highest amount of gun laws have the lowest amount of gun-related deaths, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital examined gun related fatalities laws in all 50 states from 2007-2010.  Fatalities, including homicides and suicides, ranged from a high in Louisiana of 17.9 per 100,000 people to a low in Hawaii of 2.9 per 100,000.

To measure the effect of gun laws per deaths, they gave each state a “firearm legislative strength score” on a scale of 0 to 28 based on the number of laws enacted.  Massachusetts had the highest score of 24; Utah came in at 0.  Massachusetts had a fatality rate of 3.4 per 100,000.

“We found an association between the legislative strength of a state’s firearm laws — as measured by a higher number of laws — and a lower rate of firearm fatalities,” said Dr. Eric Fleegler, the study’s lead author and an emergency department pediatrician and researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital. “The association was significant for firearm fatalities overall and for firearm suicide and firearm homicide deaths, individually.”

According to the Associated Press, Fleegler is among hundreds of doctors who have signed a petition urging President Barack Obama and Congress to pass gun safety legislation, a campaign organized by the advocacy group Doctors for America.

In addition to Hawaii, which had 16 gun laws, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts were among states with the most laws and fewest deaths. States with the fewest laws and most deaths included Alaska, Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Researchers used data from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which has tracked firearm legislation annually since 2007. They found that higher legislative strength scores were associated with lower household firearm ownership; and higher percentage of household firearm ownership was associated with higher rates of overall firearm fatalities.

The states in the top quartile of gun regulation — those with a “gun score” between 9 to 24 — had 6.64 fewer firearm-related deaths per 100,000 relative to the bottom quartile — score between 0 to 2.

Prior to this study, most of the research had focused on specific laws, not the combined effect of all gun laws. For example, a study evaluating the Brady Act, which mandates background checks for firearm purchases, found a reduction in suicides for people aged 55 years or older was much stronger in states that had both waiting periods and background checks.  

But that specific law by itself did not show a significant reduction in overall homicides and suicides, especially considering background checks are relatively easy to avoid at places like gun shows or private sales.

The new study — focusing on the combined effect of multiple restrictions — found that states with the most laws had a 37 percent lower rate of suicides by firearm and a 40 percent lower rate of homicides compared with those with the fewest laws.

“Critics of gun laws have said that gun laws don’t work, but our research indicates the opposite,” Dr. Fleeger told the Boston Globe. “In states with the most laws, we found a dramatic decreased rate in firearm fatalities, though we can’t say for certain that these laws have led to fewer deaths.”



  1. I certainly agree to this article. Strict prohibition of carrying guns without license is very important. It would promote lesser crimes and terrible incidents which will free the people from worries in walking down the cities.

  2. 1. This study looked at gun deaths. It did not look at all gun injuries. It may be that the states with lower gun deaths (e.g., New York and Massachusetts) actually have a higher rate of gun injuries, but have lower gun deaths due to more rapid shooting-to-hospital times, as well as superior trauma facilities and better-trained surgical teams, compared to states with higher gun deaths. (For example, who is more likely to die of a gunshot wound: a hunter who sustains an accidental leg wound while in the middle of a Utah forest, or a man in his 20s who is shot through the abdomen while in a metropolitan area with 6 or 7 teaching hospitals?)

    2. There are social risks of firearms: they may be used to commit crimes; to kill innocent people; and to make it easier for people to commit suicide. However, there are also social benefits of firearms. They may serve as crime deterrents, and to interrupt criminal activity. For example, the present study specifically mentioned that New York and Massachusetts have more severe gun laws (and lower gun deaths), while Utah has very few gun laws (but more gun deaths). Yet according to the US Census Bureau, in 2006 New York and Massachusetts had far more violent crimes per 100,000 population (435 and 447 respectively) than Utah (224). http://www.census.gov/statab/ranks/rank21.html

    3. The physicians involved in this study decided only to portray the risks of guns and not their benefits. Since this runs completely counter to the physician mindset (e.g., it is akin to talking about only the risks of surgery and not its benefits, it may be that the physician authors are suffering from a cultural and professional bias. For example: physicians may see hundreds of recipients of gunshot wounds, and thus have a visceral experience of the “risks” of guns. However, physicians do not see the tens of thousands of victims of violent crime, nor the hundreds of thousands of victims of non-violent crime. (Please note that the ratios of “hundreds” to “tens of thousands” and “hundreds of thousands” are statistically accurate relative to the phenomena mentioned.)

    4. This is a dramatic, headline-grabbing article, but as physicians we need to be somewhat skeptical of its methods and conclusions.

    5. Just as we require “financial disclosure” for articles submitted for publication, perhaps we should also require “political disclosure” for articles of this sort? I would guess that political bias has an even greater and more insidious effect on editorials and publications than does financial bias. It is interesting that a search for “political bias” on PubMed only yields 12 articles. This is certainly a topic worth exploring and analyzing further.

  3. You can save more lives by banning automobiles and forcing everybody to ride the bus. While you are at it, you can ban extra large soda too.

  4. No Guns in Chicago, Guns in New York, which City has the worst death rate due to guns ?????? Well Well, Chicago, the city with the tight NO GUNS !!!! control.

  5. The polio vaccine did not also cure cancer. Should we not use it because it does not cure all ailments? The NRA needs to stop advancing the theory that more gun laws won’t prevent teenage pregnancies or childhood obesity. If more gun laws will lead to fewer gun deaths, do it! Separately, we can also have a conversation about crimes unrelated to guns. But if one huge problem can be solved, or at least reduced, then stop worrying about how to connect Newtown to Nazi Germany. It’s insulting to all families of gun related deaths that could be easily prevented.

    • Well, I take further pointless incursions on my constitutional rights somewhat seriously. You’re clearly a statist who believes that reduction of rights that you don’t practice *must* be great idea. None of the current infringements have reduced crime or made America a safer place and I, like many, am unwilling to “just give up a little more Freedom for the collective good” to indulge this misguided notion.

      • Another fallacy: Freedom is measured by unlimited gun rights. Not so. First, no one is suggesting removal of the Second Amendment. But it’s not unlimited. By that, I mean where do you draw the line? Should we be allowed to possess any and all guns because of the right to bear arms? An easy argument to make is that “arms” in its context would include weapons of mass destruction too. So should we call own nukes? Is the prohibition of owning nuclear weapons a violation of Second Amendment rights?

  6. Where the shooting was that killed 20 kids and 6 adults had the most harsh gun laws in the us. So no it dosen’t mean fewer deaths, stop trying to make guns seem bad.

  7. Therefore, it is only the lowest amount of gun-related deaths you are concerned about…? What about burglary, rape, break-ins, etc.? I am sure those are up in comparison. Did you correlate those states with the lowest gun-related deaths as having the lowest rapes as well? Home invasions (break-ins)? Or muggings? I am sure all of those are up since those states have restricted ones own ability and right to protect thyself, family, and property. A God given right, not the state and federal governments… Please check all the facts, not just the one that propagates your (and the governments) agenda and or views.

  8. What a biased and false article! Gun control was the first step to disarming the german citizens before the hollocaust and massmurdering of the jews! Obviously the people who wrote this article never been to Chicago, Oakland or even Los Angeles and lived there as they all have strong gun laws. What would have been a more interesting article would be why Obama insists on using Predator Drones to kill US citizens suspected to be terrorists as Hellfire missles have killed both innocent civillian and the subjective terrorist. Why does Obama need to be jury, judge, and executioner? Obama is the one holding the biggest gun and it is itself a weapon of mass destruction!

  9. There was a time when I would take this article just for what it appears to be. But I ask readers to consider just how foul and evil our medical community has become. They are the now the real terrorists here. Colorado uses police and security to chase the poor away form doctors illegally I might add but as we now know hospitals are now above the law thanks to then Sen. Clinton’s actions.
    So we have those who treat our ailments owned by the drug industry who in turn owns our worthless american hating politicians and they have made health care dangerous for all. The leader is cause bankruptcy and keeping alive but sick seems to be the health care goal. So ANY information coming from these jackals that boosts our asassinator in chief’s policy is suspect at best.
    Concentrating on guns is only going to eliminate for liberty for the innocent and cause yet another big gov’t agency we don’t need or want.

  10. This is only an unqualified opinion. It is a senseless remark without any serious base. The FBI has reported that the opposite is true. The better armed a society is the less crime. Makes sense if you think about it. Most would not assault someone they know is armed

    • There are 2 towns that I know of where they have made it mandatory for the head of a household to have a firearm. Their crime rate which was skyrocketing, plummeted by over 83% and they have had only one murder and it did not involve a firearm. The UK put a gun ban in effect a few years back and their crime rate soared and is now 3.4 times that of the USA. Australia is similar with an uncontrollable crime rate since they enforced a ban on firearms.

  11. Assuming the data is good, the interpretation is not. The study includes gun suicides but doesn’t look at all suicides. So, if you look at Utah or Vermont the gun homicide rate is very, very low while they both have very little gun regulation. The reason they don’t show up at the bottom of the gun death chart is because their gun suicide rates are high. That doesn’t mean that their overall suicide rate is high though. It just means that in a state where guns are easy to get, that is a preferred method of suicide.

  12. Here in Colorado the only gun sales that have no background check are through private parties, gun shows REQUIRE background checks!
    The current legislature is in the process of passing a law to require background checks for private sales.

    Your article does not give any comparison between Mass. and Utah, it only uses one BIASED piece of information from the Brady study and does not include data from the states own police statistics or from the FBI.

    Data can be manipulated to prove a given end by eliminating key data. The more data used in a study, the closer to the truth will come out

  13. As usual, someone points to a data correlation with no evidence of causation. 99% of Nazis wore socks and Nazis were responsible for horrific acts and mass-murder. Applying this article’s logic, socks caused the Holocaust. Also, I think many people would be more likely to commit suicide in Louisiana than in Hawaii!

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