Mass shootings in the United States have sparked a debate over gun control laws again. Wherever you stand ideologically on the issue, it is becoming increasingly clear what science is saying: stricter firearms laws can have the power to reduce firearms deaths. However, among the (surprisingly scarce) set of studies, it is also clear that some laws are more effective than others.
A big study since 2016, it has examined 130 studies conducted between 1950 and 2014 in 10 countries that have changed their basic weapons legislation. Overall, they found that tightening firearms legislation is linked to reducing firearms mortality in most countries.
However, they found that some types of legislation are more effective than others. This study found that laws on concealed weapons or “position value” have little or no effect on gun deaths or increased gun violence. Meanwhile, past vetting laws have helped reduce the killings of intimate partners, and gun custody policies have also reduced unintentional gun deaths in children.
IN RAND Corporation conducted a meta-analysis of U.S.-focused arms control research, reaching similar conclusions. There was moderately convincing evidence that past checks and gun bans related to domestic violence reduced firearms deaths. There was also good evidence that anti-defending laws could reduce the rate of violent crime. In addition, there was compelling evidence that child access laws were linked to a reduced suicide rate and accidental death or injury.
However, they found it unconvincing whether any legislation could prevent mass shootings.
Other studies have found a link between weak gun laws and mass shootings. A U.S. study from 2018 by researchers from Colombia, published in British Medical Journal, concluded that countries with lighter gun laws and higher ownership of firearms had higher rates of mass shootings than countries with stricter legalization of gun ownership. He also found that the difference in the number of shootings between restrictive and permitting states is growing.
Smoothing the link between murder and gun laws can be complex, as crime rates are influenced by a number of complex and intertwined factors. For example, research published earlier this year found that the US Federal Prohibition of Assault Weapons Act, in effect between 1994 and 2004, also saw a decline in the number and percentage of firearm deaths. However, it is also worth bearing in mind that many types of crimes dropped significantly in this period, not only crimes with weapons.
Internationally, it is remarkable that the United Kingdom and Japan have some of the strictest gun laws in the world and often boast the lowest rates of gun killings. A study claims that this is mainly due to the fact that these two countries have taken a particularly strong position against pistols, the preferred weapon in most gun killings. Fully automatic, volley and semi-automatic weapons are also completely banned by law in both countries.
There are some notable exceptions to this rule. For example, European countries such as Finland, Norway and Switzerland have relatively high rates of gun ownership compared to many of their neighbors, but surprisingly low rates of firearms homicides. It is known that according to the National Rifle Association in the United States Switzerland as an example that no more rules on gun ownership are needed. Just because there are many weapons in the country does not mean that they are not strictly regulated.
People with a criminal record or current addiction they have no right to buy weapons in Switzerland. Fully automatic weapons are prohibited except for military or police purposes, as are most semi-automatic weapons. In addition, people are only allowed to carry weapons in public if they have a license, which they will obtain if they prove that they need to defend themselves, such as security guards.
The culture of weapons is also very different in Switzerland. In Switzerland, there is compulsory military service, in which all men between the ages of 18 and 34 who are considered “fit for service” receive a pistol. After thorough training with the weapon, they are allowed to keep the firearm. Some too they argue that countries such as Switzerland have high levels of social cohesion, low crime rates and an internationally high level of trust in social institutions, which also seems to be linked to reduced levels of gun killings.
Given the importance of the issue of gun violence in the public debate, the issue of gun control is stunningly understudied in USA. With that said, it is clear that most research is created almost always pointing in the same direction. To fully understand this complex and deeply divisive issue, more research and the necessary funding are urgently needed.