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So, although small effects are especially difficult to identify with the data and methods common in this field, that does not mean the effects are unimportant: Even a 1-percent reduction in homicides corresponds to more than 1,500 fewer violent deaths over a decade.
It may be, for example, that the policies do have the intended effects on those seeking to acquire a new firearm, but because new firearms represent such a small proportion of the total stock of guns held by civilians in the United States—estimated by the Small Arms Survey to be 270 million firearms in 2005—the effects are hard to discern.
For example, laws designed to change who may buy new firearms, which guns they may buy, or how gun sales occur will predictably have only a small effect on, for example, homicide rates, which are affected much more by the existing stock of firearms.
Indeed, after restricting our review to studies designed to measure the causal effects of policies, we found scientific evidence for relatively few of the more than 100 effects we examined.
Furthermore, many of the possible effects of gun policies that are raised in policy debates have only rarely—or never—been studied rigorously.
The RAND Gun Policy in America initiative is designed to provide the most-objective information possible about what is and isn’t known about the likely effects of commonly discussed gun laws, to create tools and resources to improve the quality of research in this area, and ultimately to improve the national debate on developing fair and effective gun policies.
Views on gun policies frequently divide along political and partisan lines.Indeed, the risk of experiencing gun violence in the United States is so high and so pervasive that even the mass shootings that occur so regularly, and that capture so much attention, account for just There are many reasons why people disagree about how to reduce the harms associated with gun violence, but among the biggest is disagreement about the true effects of gun policies on a range of outcomes.Virtually no one believes that these levels of violence and sorrow should be tolerated: not gun owners, not gun-rights advocates, and certainly not those who believe guns are a root cause of these problems.The fact that gun policy debates appear to be grounded in disagreement about the effects of policies rather than about their objectives suggests an important role for the scientific study of gun laws.Even for outcomes that have been better studied, such as suicides, homicides, and accidents, often only one or two studies met our criteria for providing evidence of a policy’s effects, and these studies often provided inconclusive, contradictory, or otherwise limited evidence.Nevertheless, the fact that gun policy debates appear to be grounded in disagreement about the effects of policies rather than about their objectives suggests an important role for the scientific study of gun laws, especially where evidence is currently weak.Our careful review of thousands of published studies showed, however, that there is still much to learn about the effects of gun policies.Perhaps partly as a result of the widespread availability of this data set, we found vastly more research on shall-issue concealed-carry laws than on any other gun policy.Indeed, while we identified 30 studies that examined the effects of shall-issue laws using rigorous methods, the next most commonly studied policy (background checks) had just 13 studies, and the next beyond that (child-access prevention laws) had only eight. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters March 2, 2018In addition to their many uses, guns have symbolic, cultural, and economic importance in the United States. Supreme Court on November 27, 2017, the day the court declined to hear a challenge to Maryland’s 2013 state ban on assault weapons.