Firearm deaths and background checks: Evidence on what works & what does not



  • There is much interest in how state policies might reduce firearm deaths. For example, a recent study found that using local agencies to perform background checks prior to a firearm purchase was associated with reductions in firearm homicide and suicide-deaths. We re-visit this issue, using sophisticated empirical model specifications that help reduce bias from confounders. We also explore the effects of comprehensiveness of other state policies related to gun background checks. State-level data for 1996-2005 are used. Data on state policies are from from the Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales, and data for firearm deaths are from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Multivariate negative binomial models are used to estimate the relationship between agency levels and state policies for background checks, and firearm homicides and suicide-deaths, by race (all races, whites and blacks) and age (youth and adults). Models control for contemporaneous state characteristics, past firearm violence, past state-policy on background checks, and other proxy variables for unmeasured state-level heterogeneity. We found little evidence that using local or state agencies as opposed to federal agencies impact firearm deaths. In fact, the use of state agencies as opposed to federal agencies except in certain instances is associated with higher firearm deaths. Firearm homicide-deaths were 11% and 37% higher respectively among Whites and Blacks in states using state agencies for background checks (reference group: federal agency). Firearm suicide-deaths among Whites and all adults were about 13% and 9% higher respectively in the states using state agencies. We found evidence that more comprehensive background checks at the state level are effective in reducing firearm deaths. We also found significant variation in results between suicide deaths and homicide deaths, and between races and age-groups and states that have had background checks in place since before the Brady Act had fewer firearm deaths. The use of local or state agencies as opposed to FBI is not associated with lower firearm homicide-deaths or suicide deaths, whereas more comprehensive background checks regardless of agency before firearm purchase were associated with fewer firearm purchases. © 2013 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Authors

    International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13

  • 9781628080513
  • Pubmed Id

  • 9391093
  • Start Page

  • 199
  • End Page

  • 212