In this report, part of the RAND Corporation's Gun Policy in America initiative, researchers seek objective information about what scientific literature reveals about the likely effects of various gun laws. In the third edition of this report, the authors incorporate more-recent research in their synthesis of the available scientific data regarding the effects of 18 state firearm policies on firearm deaths, violent crime, suicides, the gun industry, defensive gun use, and other outcomes. By highlighting where scientific evidence is accumulating, the authors hope to build consensus around a shared set of facts that have been established through a transparent, nonpartisan, and impartial review process. In so doing, they also illuminate areas in which more and better information could make important contributions to establishing fair and effective gun policies.

Key Findings

Scientific evidence on gun policies' effects remains modest but supports several conclusions

  • Of more than 200 combinations of policies and outcomes, relatively few have been the subject of methodologically rigorous investigation. Notably, research into five of the examined outcomes is either unavailable or almost entirely inconclusive, and three of these five outcomes represent issues of particular concern to gun owners or gun industry stakeholders.
  • Available evidence supports the conclusion that child-access prevention laws, or safe storage laws, reduce self-inflicted fatal or nonfatal firearm injuries — including unintentional and intentional self-injuries — among youth. Evidence also supports the conclusions that such laws reduce firearm homicides among youth.
  • There is supportive evidence that stand-your-ground laws are associated with increases in firearm homicides and moderate evidence that such laws increase the total number of homicides.
  • There is supportive evidence that "shall-issue" concealed-carry laws increase both total and firearm homicides.
  • There is moderate evidence that state laws prohibiting gun ownership by individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders decrease total and firearm-related intimate partner homicides.
  • There is moderate evidence that background check requirements reduce homicides.
  • There is moderate evidence that waiting periods reduce firearm suicides and total homicides.
  • There is moderate evidence that more-restrictive minimum age of purchase laws reduce firearm suicide.
  • No studies meeting the authors' inclusion criteria have examined the effects of laws requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms or of laws allowing armed staff in kindergarten through grade 12 schools.

Read the full article about gun policy by Rosanna Smart, Andrew R. Morral, Rajeev Ramchand, Amanda Charbonneau, Jhacova Williams, Sierra Smucker, Samantha Cherney, and Lea Xenakis at RAND Corporation.