Making it illegal for an adult to store a gun in a place where a child might access it could result in nearly 2,500 fewer gun deaths a year in the US, new research shows
A man practices his shot position at the shooting range with an unloaded weapon in Big Pine Keys, FL on March 5, 2014.
Andrew Innerarity / Reuters
Every year, approximately 40,000 people die in the United States from gunfire and suicide.
Despite some limitations in weapon control research, scientists have studied how certain policies affect weapon death.
Recent research suggests that strict child access laws that make it illegal for adults to keep a gun in a place where a child can easily access and fire it result in a 6% reduction in gun deaths.
Strict background controls and the ban on possession of weapons by domestic perpetrators are also guidelines associated with a reduced rate of gun violence.
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Nearly 40,000 Americans die from gunshot wounds every year. According to the CDC, most of these firearm deaths are not due to mass shootings, but to suicides and murders.
The number of gun deaths in the United States is much higher than in other countries with similar gun ownership rates (as in Switzerland), but certain guidelines can help prevent these deaths.
According to a study published on Monday, stricter firearms storage laws can reduce US weapon deaths by 6% - resulting in nearly 2,500 deaths a year. These laws, known as Child Access Protection (CAP) laws, make it illegal for adults to keep a gun or ammunition in a place where a child can easily access it and fire it.
The authors of the study also found that RTC laws (right-to-carry) apply, which facilitate the carrying of hidden firearms, and SYG laws (Stand Your Ground), which limit the legal liability of persons who use weapons use for self-defense combined with an annual increase in weapon deaths of 3%.
"These are modest effects, and yet many deaths - thousands a year - have little impact on the deaths caused," Terry Schell, lead author of the study and scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, told Business Insider.
In this photo, taken on January 12, 2016, arms control activists are posted in the Capitol Rotunda in front of Governor Jay Inslee's annual address in Olympia, Washington.
AP photo / Elaine Thompson, file
Stricter laws that prevent children from having easy access to weapons reduce the death of weapons
To come to their conclusions, Schell and his colleagues tracked data on the death of weapons in the six years after each law was implemented.
"We're looking at three specific types of laws that don't dictate how you buy a gun or who can buy and own a gun, but what restrictions are there on how people store and use a gun once they have it," Schell said.
They looked at data between 1980 and 2016 in different states and found that the CAP laws were associated with 6% fewer deaths related to firearms.
Public health violence and injury prevention manager Tony Gomez in Seattle and King County demonstrates the use of a weapon lock during a press conference of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and other activists in Olympia, Washington, on January 21, 2016.
Elaine Thompson / AP
According to Giffords Law Center, 4.6 million minors in the U.S. live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm. A 2006 study found that 73% of children in Alabama under the age of 10 living in houses with guns said they knew the location of their parents' firearms, and 36% said they used the guns without their knowledge Parents had handled.
But only 27 countries have passed CAP laws.
A boy inspects a rifle during the International Hunting and Riding Exhibition on September 14, 2017.
Francois New / Getty
In 2015, 13 million U.S. households with children contained firearms. However, less than one in three of these households followed the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics to keep all locked and unloaded household weapons.
A 2019 study found that up to 32% of youth suicide and accidental firearm deaths (where youth are defined as people who are 19 years old or younger) could have been prevented if the rest of these households locked up their weapons would have.
In particular, the researchers found that if 20% of households in which at least one weapon was unlocked would lock up all weapons within a year, 72 to 135 deaths from adolescent firearms could be prevented.
The right to take away and stand-your-ground laws are associated with a higher rate of gun deaths
Shell's team found that RTC and SYG laws involved 3% more gun deaths per year.
Not every state has these laws, but states that produce negative results. After a SYG law passed in Florida in 2005, the number of weapons killed by teenage murder increased 45%.
Schell said his group had not investigated why these laws are linked to such results.
"We don't know if this is because people who carry hidden weapons are now more likely to commit crimes, are victims of more crimes, or are more likely to be shot by the police because they carry a weapon," he said.
A woman poses with a hidden carry bag from Gun Girls, Inc.
Joe Raedle / Getty
However, the authors of the study found that states with the most restrictive combinations of these guidelines - locations with a GAP law and without SYG or RTC laws - had 11% fewer deaths from firearms per year than states without GAP laws with SYG- and RTC guidelines in place.
This results in an estimated 4,475 firearm deaths per year in the United States.
Other guidelines that reduce the incidence of gun violence
While the new study by Schell and his colleagues only examined the effects of the laws on preventing access to children, the right to take away and the stand-your-ground law, other guidelines have been shown to reduce the frequency of gun violence and injuries.
Currently, U.S. law only prescribes background checks when people buy weapons from licensed arms dealers. However, other studies by RAND estimate that universal background tests could prevent 1,100 murders per year.
Data shows that states requiring background checks on all arms sales had 35% fewer gun deaths per capita between 2009 and 2012.
A 2018 study found that states with stricter gun-buying background laws have fewer school shootings. Although this is not the most common form of gun violence, US shootings have increased in the US: from 1966 to 2008 there was an average of one a year, from 2013 to 2015 an average of one a week, the same study said.
Mourners pray for a memorial in front of Santa Fe High School on May 21, 2018 in Santa Fe, Texas.
Getty Images / Scott Olson
Prolonged prison sentences for crimes with a weapon - such as armed robbery and attack with a deadly weapon - have also been shown to help reduce the use of violent firearms.
Gun robbery rates have dropped in states that have been granted longer punishments for assault or robbery with a gun.
Reuters / Bryan Woolston
If people who have been convicted of domestic abuse have no weapons, the number of gun deaths also decreases.
The 1968 Lautenberg amendment to the Arms Act disqualifies people with a conviction for domestic violence from buying or owning weapons. According to a study from 2017, the gun murders of female intimate partners decreased by 17% as a result of this change.
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