• Jessica Colarossi

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    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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There are 35 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.

  11. Guns are not the problem. You continue to ignore the real issue so the problem will never be solved. Let’s start addressing the real problem. The lack of morals, the lack of ethics and the lack of respect for the sanctity of human life. Then we have the breakdown of the family unit and kids that are being raised by the (often violent) TV and Xbox, often undisciplined and with no respect for authority. On top of that we now have a generation exposed to the idea that if a human life is a bother to you, it’s a right to end it. (Abortion if you didn’t catch on.) On top of that is the entitlement mentality that a growing segment of society has and sometimes when one of those individuals doesn’t get what they think they deserve they believe the whole world hates them and they decide to go on a shooting spree. But no, these subjects seem be taboo, instead there is only discussion about my 2nd Amendment rights, the hate of the NRA and law abiding gun owners.

    1. I agree it isn’t about the guns itself it’s about how you use or intend to use them. If you buy a deer hunting rifle 9 times out of 10 you only use it for hunting use and then when the season that you use it for, you put it back in the designated area you chose (preferably a gun cabinet/safe). where I’m from there’s no school shootings in my county, because we handle things differently. and if there is a problem we don’t let it get that far even though it hardly ever comes down to that. So guns aren’t the problem the people that use them are! We usually handle arguments with punches, not shooting people. Although, it has happened before. But half the reason for police and school shootings is with the “drugs” that people use.

      If there wasn’t so many stupid people in this country we wouldn’t have to have disscussions about this subject!

    2. I’ve not read all comments, but this is the best so far , anyone can argue until they are blue in the face because those who argue against morals , Seriously they are the absolute problems , and nothing will change in this debate on who is right. Until morality becomes a virtue in this country or any other,
      Wright it down in your journal’s or anywhere you see fit and when things turn to the worse, most likely it will be to late. It’s easy to see we are on a path to self destruction
      Read any history where where civilizations were destroyed or fallen was because of corruption (no righteous morals)

  12. Another bit of info, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Selected Findings (NCJ-15358), violent criminals serve on average just 48% of their prison sentence when incarcerated. This includes homicide were those convicted of murder server just 71 months on average. These consequences clearly are not enough to intimidate gang members and drug dealers, the vast bulk of those committing homicide in the US. 83% of released state prisoners are arrested at least once for a new offense after their initial release.

    The failure of the penal system and law enforcement to deal with violent criminals does not give anyone the right to infringe upon my rights. The “for your own good” mantra has been used throughout most of history as an excuse for governments to gain additional power over it’s citizens. In the past 100 or so years, this has been demonstrated repeatedly. In the US, there are over 22,000 gun laws on the books already but it’s never enough for the gun grabbers. You think criminals are dangerous? The don’t hold a candle to governments. And in studies commissioned by the CDC, they have never been able to show that ANY gun laws have had a positive impact on crime. So ask yourself why politicians keep wanting more of them.

    The Turkish Ottoman Empire established gun control in 1911. It then proceeded to exterminate 1 and a half million Armenians from 1914 to 1917.
    In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Germany established gun control in 1938
    and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were
    unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
    China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend
    themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend
    themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.

    Gun control, the solution of the simple minded.

    1. Gun manufacturers and NRA officials use excuse of second ammendment( outdated in current atmosphere) to brainwash succeptible individuals need for guns including Assault weapons.
      To get beer, drivers license – needs license and age restrictions.
      Why not strict restrictions for acquiring guns.
      Greed of making more money prevents such restrictions.
      Unless thinking changes; our country will continue to have unnecessary deaths from homicides and suicides

      1. The 2nd Amendment is not outdated. It was written in a clear manner which protects the individuals right to keep and bear arms.

        There is no such thing as an “Assault Weapon.” Assault Weapon was a term created in the 80s to confuse and scare the public. There is no one acutal set definition of what an assualt weapon even is.

        The majority of mass shootings and gun violence happen in low income neighborhoods.

  13. It seems like there are discrepancies in this article and I suggest people read the actual study. The article refers to “homicide rates” and then to “gun related deaths” which are significantly different. Given nearly 50% of “gun related deaths” are suicides and the study finds no effect on gun laws and suicide rates I find it suspect to say that implementation of 2 laws would reduce homicides in excess of 25%.

    Next issue; there are 15 states plus DC that have universal background checks. It’s fairly easy to determine that the homicide rate in those states averages 5.3% not 3.3%. If you exclude the outlier (DC at 22.8%) you come up with 4.22% vs. a national average (including DC) of 5% based on 2018 statistics. Clearly there is some manipulation so you need to read the actual paper to determine why there is a discrepancy.

    Part of the reason we can’t get effective gun laws on the books is because studies like this have such obvious biased flaws and poor definitions. Reducing the number of guns will reduce the amount of gun violence, but is that actually the objective of gun regulation? I would argue the objective is to reduce violence, not gun violence.

    Reducing the number of baseball bats will reduce the amount of baseball bat violence but really doesn’t accomplish any true goals except to placate the anti-baseball bat crowd.

  14. Nothing will improve until all states require background checks. If those background checks are limited to AR 15’s (weapon of war most used in mass shootings), the argument about constitutionally-guaranteed gun rights being threatened is eliminated. Then, the real hunters and marksmen will realize their ownership is safe adding to support this first step.

    1. Your interpretation is quite off. It’s essential to conduct thorough research and examine the data before making statements that might undermine your credibility.

      1. In which states is a background check not required?

      2. AR-15s designed for civilian use have never seen combat. They are distinct from military versions.

      3. Contrary to common belief, AR-15s are not the predominant firearms in mass shootings. They account for approximately 9%-13% of all shootings, while handguns constitute the majority at 75%. Mass shootings, in general, represent a small proportion of overall firearm incidents.

      4. Most instances of mass shootings and gun violence occur in low-income neighborhoods and involve gangs and criminals using handguns.

      5. The phrase “Shall not be infringed” is unambiguous. It denotes a constitutional right that does not diminish based on personal feelings or sensitivities.

  15. ALL states require background checks… ALL.
    All background checks require citizens and legal firearm owners to check their background before purchasing from a licensed agent.

    NO STATE – NOT ONE, requires or has a law for criminals to obtain background checks before purchasing or stealing a gun from an unlicensed source.

    ALL gun control laws currently planned or advocated for, just attempt to make legal owners and citizens into criminals.

    There are NO plans, interests, or attempts to address CURRENT criminals from breaking further laws and obtaining guns illegally.

  16. When I first read this my first thought was, “explain Chicago then!” City wide fire arms ban for about 2 decades, 700 a year killed with guns? I have many issues with this story. For starters, “RED FLAG” laws. There goes one key to Pandora’s box. Our government is already corrupted beyond repair. They pass laws yearly that we don’t even hear or know about, so now lets start passing , ‘take your rights because you MIGHT do something wrong in the future. In case no one noticed, the government, never loosens the noose of oppression. It might start with 10 points of criteria needed to show their supposed reasonable cause to seize the subjects guns, two years later it will be 7 points needed and so on. And my reasonable isn’t the same as their reasonable. (the points I reference are just my way pointing out how their subjective criteria and burden for cause will erode until it’s just one more unchecked power they have. The point is for now its just guns. Cars killed 40,000 this year and phone use contributed to 1/4 to 1/3 of those accidents, so is it cars and phones next. And then your right to earn an income.

    Then there is the entire point that In my opinion it is unlawful for them to take my rights to have a firearm from the start. Shall not be infringed. The framers of our constitution and the writers of the old English bill of rights all agreed that the right to bear arms was in fact not a new right given to the people by the constitutions, or the governments, but a right that all men, women, and children were born with, bestowed upon them at birth by God and shall not be infringed. The Supreme Court was wrong in 2008 District of Columbia v, Heller, when it said that it didn’t preclude long standing prohibitions forbidding possession by felons. That’s a lie! I don’t consider less than 80 years, long standing over the course of 1000 years of firearms existence.
    I have had my license revoked since 1992. The State has made errors that have created this hell for me, and they won’t just admit to it and correct the problem, but since I have been arrested 3 times driving (3x’s in 30 years, and just to get to a job every time) well the third time was a felony and a 6 year sentence, now how do they justify taking my 2nd rights for driving revoked. All gun advocate’s scream, we need them for our right to protect our selves!!! But I drove to a jobsite without a license so I DON’T HAVE THE SAME RIGHT TO PROTECT MYSELF.

    Oh, one more thing. of mass shootings in USA over the last 30 years, 74% of the guns used were bought legal and with a background check. About 2% were stolen or black market type. so says the FBI.

  17. Yes background check by FBI, an a waiting period. Not instant buy take home for certain guns not all. But first
    Close the black market where many guns are purchaser’s are made.

  18. I’ve been doing this longer than the authors have been alive lol. In my long experience as a fed who has more passports than most people have drivers licenses I see it comes down to three things.

    Quality of life. Happy content people don’t get into violent crime. Gangs in my experience prey upon people and trap them in the lifestyle. Mexico for example has the worlds strictest firearms control yet gun violence is rampant. Those are NOT US guns either. See STRATFOR’s piece by former DSS agents one who worked Mexico and against the cartels on that myth. We see this proven in Chicago. They gave at risk youth summer jobs and in 8 weeks violent crime arrests plummeted 47%. Food security, healthcare access, decent cost of living.

    The other issue as police chief Contee of DC said is the revolving door. Courts are complacent on putting away dangerous people.
    We saw this with Columbine too. Those two were recommended for a psych eval that would have sent up major red flags and the judge dismissed that request.

    Proper mental healthcare referrals Aurora shooter was deliberately dropped and not referred to police.

    VT, NH, and ME always pro gun used to be superb violences wise because of those 3 things. Now with transplants like Bernie Sanders he ushered in poverty to VT. Crime upticked.

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