Gun Licensing Laws Help Keep Murders, Suicides Down

MONDAY, Aug. 31, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Handgun licensing laws in U.S. states lead to fewer gun-related homicides and suicides, a new study finds.

These laws go beyond federal background checks by requiring a prospective buyer to apply for a license or permit from state or local law enforcement.

"So much of the gun policy discussion focuses on background checks alone," said study author Alex McCourt, an assistant scientist at the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"We need to recognize that background checks are necessary for identifying people prohibited from accessing a firearm, but unless complemented by licensing, our research indicates they are not sufficient to reduce gun fatalities," he added in a Hopkins news release.

To come to that conclusion, McCourt's team assessed the effects of different gun laws in Connecticut, Missouri, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Connecticut enacted a purchaser licensing law in 1995 and had a 28% decrease in firearm homicide rates and a 33% decrease in firearm suicides from 1996 to 2017.

Connecticut also increased its use of a law allowing police to temporarily remove guns from people threatening to harm themselves or others, the researchers added.

Conversely, Missouri repealed its purchaser licensing law in 2007, and there was a 47% increase in the rate of firearm homicides and a 23.5% increase in firearm suicide rates from 2007 to 2016.

Meanwhile, in 1996 both Maryland and Pennsylvania implemented comprehensive background check laws for handguns, but not purchaser licensing requirements. Maryland had a 17.5% increase in firearm homicide rates from 1997 to 2013. There was a 15% decline in firearm suicides, but non-firearm suicides also declined.

Maryland enacted a purchaser licensing law in 2013, but there were too few years of data available for the study.

Pennsylvania had a 21.5% increase of firearm homicide rates and no significant change in firearm suicides after it enacted its comprehensive background check law without licensing requirements, according to the study published recently in the American Journal of Public Health.

More information

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

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, news release, Aug. 20, 2020

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