• Jessica Colarossi

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    Jessica Colarossi

    Jessica Colarossi is a science writer for The Brink. She graduated with a BS in journalism from Emerson College in 2016, with focuses on environmental studies and publishing. While a student, she interned at ThinkProgress in Washington, D.C., where she wrote over 30 stories, most of them relating to climate change, coral reefs, and women’s health. Profile

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    Kat J McAlpine

    Kat J. McAlpine is editor of The Brink, Boston University’s news site for scientific breakthroughs and pioneering research. Kat has been telling science stories for over a decade, and prior to joining BU’s editorial staff, publicized research at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and the University of Connecticut’s School of Engineering. Profile

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There are 22 comments on The FBI and CDC Datasets Agree: Who Has Guns—Not Which Guns—Linked to Murder Rates

  1. Definitely a fan of universal background tests and restricting people with a history of violence from obtaining guns, but couldn’t a “may issue” law be used as a discriminatory tool? I may just be prejudiced against the police, but something about local police having the ability to determine who can and cannot carry a gun seems like we’re relying too much on the police not harboring prejudices of their own.

    1. BU Student: I completely agree. We know the police harbor prejudices for a fact — whether it’s cops murdering black men in the street or just harassing BIPOC in general, posting racist & violent memes & comments on Facebook, or the fact that cops perpetrate domestic violence against their own families at a significantly higher rate than non-police.

      When we talk about preventing gun violence, we need to talk about disarming the police & ending police impunity.

      1. The only way to sell disarming the police is to also disarm the general population. It is also more likely the police would be demilitarised instead of completely disarmed at least until it has become clear they face a low to below zero risk of facing gun toting criminals. Even mere demilitarisation is still a good thing that will lead to far fewer police shootings.

        Issues of police prejudice and police impunity are more issues of accountability and consequences. In many countries the assumption is the armed police officer is responsible for determining if a threat is present and when shooting an unarmed person the assumption is they didn’t fulfil this obligation. The minimum penalty would be dismissal without benefits.

        Of course the best solution to this is to just take away the right for police to investigate themselves. By having an independent third party investigate claims against police tends to lead to more finding of wrongdoing.

      2. Actually, police must obey by the same laws as any citizen in self-defense shootings (only kind that are legal in any state). Now, the problem is that DA’s and government organizations tend to give a LEO a pass when they should not.
        2A is exactly intended as a defense against a government that has become unlawful, so IMHO at no time should we allow a “may issue” or “may allow” laws, There should be simple direct rules as to who can buy or carry. The law should be clear to the average person, as in Texas, a fixed content course, written test, comprehensive background test and a “live fire” test.
        Citizens that have a Texas Handgun permit have a crime rate about 4X better than police and 15X better than average citizen. Florida also have such stats.

    2. Rather than disregard some solutions out of fear of a hypothetical flaw, the wise course would be to look at current practices where police have control over distribution of licenses to see if these abuses exist. For far too long, we have allowed groups like the NRA to ban discussion of reasonable controls because the group paints a worst-case scenario to a policymaker.

    3. Absolutely correct, it’s a slippery slope, it can easily become more and more restrictive, constitutional issues abound, is murder a result of living in a violent society where war serves only a few? Careful..

  2. I appreciate the practicality of the solutions the researcher poses from his thorough research. It’s often a topic of debate if people are the problem or guns themselves but this study meets at the intersection of these stances to say it’s the laws that allow for certain people to acquire guns that are the problem. Hoping to share this artice to guide productive conversations towards gun reform laws

  3. In the linked study, Siegel et al specifically remind that their data do not demonstrate a causal relationship between enacted laws and the reduction of homicides.

    But of course, the authors of this article concluded exactly that, despite their best efforts to construct a guise of scientific objectivity.

    Disingenuous at best, though not surprising given the source.

  4. Focusing on gun homicides instead of all homicides shows selection bias.

    It does not matter to a victim if they are killed with a gun or another implement.

    Framing the issue as “gun violence” frames it as a problem with inanimate objects, rather than with culture and criminality.

    Moreover, looking at broad categories of states instead of correlating on a state by state basis suggests an agenda rather than careful analysis.

    1. “Framing the issue as “gun violence” frames it as a problem with inanimate objects, rather than with culture and criminality.”

      You should read the article – and the headline – which loudly notes that it’s about WHO has the guns and not which guns. Throughout the article it’s stresses several times that the object doesn’t matter, but who has it.

      “Moreover, looking at broad categories of states instead of correlating on a state by state basis suggests an agenda rather than careful analysis.”

      Um, I’m not exactly sure what you’re saying here, but while it sounds sciency it shows you need to read the article. They correlated state *laws* with controls on other laws that state has as well as adjoining state laws and other applicable things. That’s pretty much the definition of a state by state comparison.

      You’re not here just to troll, are you?

      1. “You should read the article – and the headline – which loudly notes that it’s about WHO has the guns and not which guns. Throughout the article it’s stresses several times that the object doesn’t matter, but who has it.”

        This isn’t really the objection, though.

        The is a common problem in research on gun violence. The study finds that *gun* homicide rates go down when certain laws are in effect. But what it doesn’t do is look at whether the states with certain kinds of laws have lower homicide rates period.

        In other words, if a law makes it so that people commit the same number of murders but with different implements, can we really call the law “effective” in any meaningful way? To call it effective in that context is to say that being murdered by a gun is somehow worse than being murdered in some other way. This isn’t to say that the study’s findings are pointless or useless information. We just have to be clear about what, specifically, is being proven.

    2. Exactly. If all homicides are considered the places where “shall issue” may show a homicide rate lower than the “may issue” places. We know that 1-2 million times a year that an armed citizen will stop a violent crime (CDC, many other studies), so for these cases there is no source of documentation,

      To make Universal Background check acceptable for “private” transfers is to change the NICS system so that the average citizen can check the status of the buyer without cost and without violation of privacy laws, Maybe a web site where the buyer can logon and receive an “electronic token” that can be used by the seller to verify with NICS. Maybe a 2D scan that could be scanned with your smart phone (with option of entry of a unique series of digits/letters from keyboard).
      I have no problem with the background check, but the cost, time and inconvenience of going to an FFL for the check amounts to a “underhanded way to discourage gun ownership”.

  5. seems to me that a fully enforced mandatory stiff jail sentence – five plus years (in addition to the penalty for any additional crime committed with the weapon) – for anyone illegally possessing a weapon, would go a long way to reducing illegal possession and gun crimes

    1. These laws are already on the books but there is no or poor enforcement by liberal judges and DA’s. “He’s just a poor boy your honor, he didn’t mean to kill, rob and rape, he was an addict”. Then they plead out to lesser charges to avoid real charges and real JUSTICE!
      The Criminal gets more rights than the Victim due to institutional RACISM!

  6. I am a dedicated proponent of the Second Amendment, and I find this article to be very enlightening. My only rebuttal is that the statement that “may issue“ concealed carry permit policies do not reduce the likelihood of violence over “shall issue” policies. Statistics show that all CCW holder’s have a substantially lower rate of criminal violence than non-holders. And in states that are more liberal in the distribution of carry licenses, the applicants are still required to submit information including fingerprints that are checked against an FBI criminal database. Statistics also show that violent crime rates reduce in states that convert to Shall Issue policies instead of May Issue.

  7. So I get the details of these studies, however there are some interpretations of the data that are inaccurate.

    Saying there is no empirical evidence that laws banning assault weapons and controlling what weapons are effective in preventing homicide rates is not accurate.

    Weapons that are highly lethal and able to sustain continuous firing without reloading and easy reloading, however you classify them, are a clear weapon of choice for mass shooters.

    If you review the data, nearly every mass shooting involves a weapon fitting this description and many mass shooter prefer handguns because they areas to conceal, use and carry. The challenge with the interpretations here are handguns are not considered an assault weapon even though many handguns clearly fit the criteria. Handguns may be responsible for most homicides but that doesn’t mean making it hard for those intending to commit a mass shooting gaining access to these weapons makes no difference. Globally the restriction of these weapons are clearly linked to a reduction in mass shootings, and the data in these studies doesn’t disagree with this.

    The research into how who has access to guns only applies to those with a history that can be traced. While this approach does clearly impact overall gun murders and should be supported, it can not prevent someone with no history of violence from obtaining a weapon. Other countries with much greater experience in preventing gun crime, with stricter laws than any in the US, have learned that these people are the most challenging. For example there is very little gun crime in Australia but there have been 2 lawful gun owners, who committed mass murder with a gun. Both were going through child custody fights. A law to automatically notify a spouse if their partner applies to buy a gun would have prevented one of these murders and a law to regularly review a lawful gun owner’s fitness to possess would have prevented the other.

    Who has access to guns absolutely counts, and laws to demand a gun owner ongoingly demonstrate their fitness to possess and can confiscate them when they cannot do so makes a clear and measurable difference, but what weapons are available also counts. The reality is even if a legal gun owner is fit and responsible they cannot guarantee their weapon will not end up in the hands of someone who is not. After two decades of tight national gun controls, Australia now has more weapons that have been stolen from lawful gun owners than those in legal possession, and criminals don’t care about following the rules. Restrictions on what still matter.

    1. So you ‘get the details’ that show that the type of gun doesn’t matter, but you still want gun bans and confiscations.

      I think an inaccuracy exists, however not with the data, but with a reluctance to discard an assumption. An assumption that has caused an obsessive/compulsive disorder in the body politic. Ban Guns! Gun Problem Solved!

      Enact a prior restraint even when this scientific evidence being reported on points out that really doesn’t solve anything.

      No one will change what you believe, however, what you think may.

    2. You are correct. However, if a home invader thinks that the target home has multiple armed and trained citizens in resident, they do have a strong urge to find a safer profession. I want to have the US such that a large percentage of homes are unattractive to such criminals.

      I think that the “gun control” groups keep harping on AR’s is the reason that they are now more popular of mass shooters not that they are more deadly or effective. We had an AW ban for 10 full years and NO positive results could be identified and many negative results were shown, That is why both sides agreed to allow it to expire.

  8. You also need to understand existing law to make a conclusion that more laws would help, and this doesn’t seem to be the case.

    From that article:

    “However, it’s important to recognize that when other states surrounding you have weak policies, it undermines the effect of your own state laws, which is exactly what happened last week in Gilroy, California. The shooter went to Nevada to get a gun, because it’s harder to get a gun in California.”

    Sorry, but this is nonsense. The Gilroy murderer bought the gun in Nevada because that is where he lived. He was a NV resident, bought the rifle from a NV FFL, and passed Nevada’s mandatory background check. The only thing “easier” about buying the gun in NV is that there is no waiting period (which would have had had no effect, he bought the rifle 3 weeks prior). Now the rifle was considered in CA an “Assault Weapon” in that it it had a detachable magazine and a pistol grip, things that are not allowed in the California. The rifle itself, a WASR is perfectly legal in CA, with the addition of a grip wrap, a magazine lock and a 10 round magazine, all of which are easily removable with simple hand tools. To see the CA compliant version of the same rifle, google “WASR10 CA LEGAL”

    The theory often cited that criminals travel to states with less restrictive laws to buy their guns is simply wrong. It is federally illegal to buy a handgun in a state you are not a resident of, and for long guns it is only legal if the transaction goes through a Federal Firearms License (which requires at minimum NICS background check) and is legal in both the state of residence of the buyer and the location of the sale.

    For example, a CA resident cannot legally buy a firearm in Nevada, because it is not allowed by CA. A Utah resident can buy a long gun, but has to go through the same background check a NV resident does.

    Now you can make the argument that face to face sales are not required by law to check residency, and that is true, but it doesn’t change the fact that buying a gun in another state without a background check is already illegal.

    This is backed up by “Source and Use of Firearms Involved in Crimes: Survey of Prison Inmates, 2016” from the U.S. DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics, which reports the vast majority were stolen or acquired “Off the street/underground market” or through straw purchases (because criminals, being criminals, are already prohibited from owning firearms), all of which are already illegal. Only ~10% acquired guns from a retail source, of which 0.8% came from “Gun Shows”

  9. Missing from the article is any discussion of the Constitution and the fact that virtually all of current laws are un-constitutional. The real purpose of disarming any population is to set the groundwork for setting up a dictatorship. And of course, universal background checks will lead to confiscation and disarming the population. Check Germany under Hitler.

  10. Don’t California and New York with some of the strickest laws also have the some of the highest numbers of murder and rate of violent crime? If Red Flag laws were well defined so there needs to be some proof of a credible threat, then I could support that. But I can’t support the type of Red Flag laws that my state of VA is proposing where they just need hearsay based on the word of one officer, for the same reasons I can’t support the unjust “may issue” clause giving undue power to police officers who have been proven to be prejudice.

    Would you be able to do a study on how rate of fatherless homes effects rates of violent crimes? I keep hearing that fatherlessness is one of the greatest metrics for likelihood of violent crimes but haven’t actually seen the data for it.

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