14 August 2020

Gun Research Update

Welcome back. I haven’t blogged about gun research in over a year (Gun Violence and Mental Health). Why now? Two recent, very interesting studies. One was a survey of gun owners; the other examined the impact of gun ownership and concealed-carry legislation on mass shootings. I’ll review the key findings of both. 

Gun ownership by state, 2015 (from

Gun Owner Survey
Boston University researchers had Ipsos conduct a national survey of 2,086 U.S. gun owners on their gun-related attitudes and practices. There were three major findings.

First, less than one quarter of gun owners (23%) reported taking part in any gun-related activity more than rarely, including NRA membership (12%) or attending gun shows (2%). The primary reasons for owning a gun were defense (59%) and recreation (27%).

Second, although no more than a quarter of gun owners linked gun ownership to patriotism (24%) or empowerment (16%), the majority viewed guns as a symbol of freedom (63%), threatened by gun control advocates seeking to eliminate the Second Amendment or take away all guns (59%). Many (45%) felt disrespected by gun control advocates.

Third, the variation among gun owners regarding the symbolic connection with guns and belief that their freedom is being threatened produces major differences in opinion about gun policies. While most gun owners supported a number of gun violence prevention policies, including universal background checks (75%), background checks for concealed-carry permits (87%) and permits to buy a handgun (77%) or any gun (53%), most did not support a federal database to track gun sales (49%), bans on assault weapons (41%) or high capacity ammunition magazines (36%) or stricter gun laws (39%).

Of the 75% who supported universal background checks, only 7% had ever publicly expressed support for such policies. Most felt alienated because gun control advocates blame gun owners or don’t understand much about guns or gun ownership (60%).

Mass Shootings and Concealed-Carry Laws
Mass shootings--killing four or more individuals, excluding the shooter, with a firearm within 24 hours--account for less than 1% of U.S. homicides, yet they disproportionately influence discourse on firearms. One of the most widely discussed and implemented policies to prevent mass shootings is permissive concealed-carry legislation. This aligns with the NRA promoted notion, The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Fifteen states had permissive concealed-carry policies in the early 1990s; 41 states by 2018.

The U.S. has three types of concealed-carry laws. The most permissive is “permitless” carry, where firearm owners don’t need an additional permit. “Shall-issue” states require that individuals apply for a concealed-carry permit, but law enforcement has minimal discretion on whether to deny an applicant. “May-issue” states require an additional permit, and law enforcement has broad options on approving or denying an applicant.

An Amazon best seller, concealed-carry holster (from www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Holster-Concealed-Bodyguard-Similar/dp/B01DEGYTC6/ref=sr_1_4).

Assessing the Impact of Concealed-Carry Laws
A Florida State University researcher examined the impact of concealed-carry legislation and household gun ownership on annual counts of mass shootings and homicides in the U.S. from 1991 to 2016.

She derived data on firearm homicides from the CDC, developed a mass murders dataset from media accounts and multiple sources, and tracked firearms legislation with the State Firearms Laws Database. Household gun ownership was measured using a common proxy, the proportion of suicides committed with a firearm. For the analysis, she separated permitless carry and shall-issue states from may-issue states, and controlled for a variety of factors, such as unemployment rates, poverty levels and states' mental health expenditures.

Wrap Up
The study found no evidence that permissive concealed-carry legislation prevents mass shootings or mitigates their damage, though it was associated with an 11% increase in the firearms homicide incidence rate.

In contrast, household gun ownership was associated with a 54% increase in the mass shooting incidence rate. Notably, factors such as access to mental healthcare do not significantly influence the rate of these crimes.

Predicted number of years between mass shootings by levels of household gun ownership in all 50 states, 1991–2016 (from www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07418825.2020.1789693).

Overall, the study suggests the U.S. could reduce gun violence by lowering levels of gun ownership and, contrary to the good-guy, bad-guy notion, by passing stricter concealed-carry laws.

Thanks for stopping by.

Survey of gun owners in American Jour. of Preventive Medicine: www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(20)30239-7/fulltext
Article on survey on EurekAlert! website: www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/buso-bns072820.php
Study of concealed carry and gun ownership impact on mass shootings in Justice Quarterly journal: www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07418825.2020.1789693
Article on study on Business Insider website: www.businessinsider.com/gun-control-research-concealed-carry-laws-mass-shootings-2020-7

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