What Types of Policies Are Most Effective in Reducing Gun Homicides?

New Report from the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium Draws on Comprehensive Database of State Firearm Laws to Help Policymakers Evaluate Competing Proposals

Universal Background Checks, Restricting Access for Individuals with History of Violence Found Most Likely to Reduce Gun Homicide Rates


Albany, NY — A new report from the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, coordinated by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, draws on a comprehensive new database of state firearm laws to help policymakers make evidence-based evaluations of competing policy responses to gun violence.

The analysis, using data compiled in a project at the Boston University School of Public Health with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Evidence for Action Program, finds that universal background checks and restricting access to firearms for individuals with a history of violence are most likely to reduce gun-related homicides.

“Responses to gun violence in the US range from outlawing all gun-related activities to expanding citizens’ ability to own and carry firearms,” said Rockefeller Institute President Jim Malatras. “In this highly charged political environment, it’s critical that policymakers get access to the most effective evidence-based policies. This new report from the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium presents the evidence and gives policymakers the tools and data they need to make objective, informed decisions to protect the citizens of their state.”

Mass shootings in Newtown, Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Pittsburgh, and Parkland have left state policymakers grappling to identify solutions. Proposals have ranged from red flag laws and universal background checks to bans on assault weapons and stricter regulation of semiautomatic weapons. Some states are considering laws that make it easier to carry and use firearms in public, while others are debating laws aimed at eradicating gun culture entirely.

Analyzing the impact of a range of state firearm laws on total, firearm-related, and nonfirearm-related homicide rates at the state level from 1991 to 2016, the report found that three priority pieces of legislation would have the greatest impact in reducing overall firearm homicide rates:

+ Universal background checks

+ Prohibition of gun possession by people with a history of any violent misdemeanor, threatened violence, serious alcohol-related crime, or who are subject to a domestic violence restraining order

+ Extreme risk protection order laws that allow removal of firearms from an individual who, after due process, is deemed to represent a threat to themselves or others
The report’s design was not about which laws work and which laws do not work, but aimed to identify the types of policies that appear to have the greatest impact and which should therefore be a priority for policymakers.

The report was written by Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health, and Claire Boine, research scholar in community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health.

Read the report.



About the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium

The Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, coordinated by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, is a program of States for Gun Safety, a coalition of six states and Puerto Rico that aims to disrupt the cycle of firearm-involved mass shootings, homicides, suicides, and accidents.

The Consortium brings together 50 researchers (and growing) from across the States for Gun Safety coalition, as well as additional midwestern states, in an effort to reduce violence involving firearms through interdisciplinary research and analysis. Learn more at rockinst.org/gun-violence.

About the Rockefeller Institute of Government

The Rockefeller Institute of Government is the public policy research arm of the State University of New York. The Institute conducts cutting-edge research and analysis to inform lasting solutions to the problems facing New York State and the nation.

rockinst.org | @RockefellerInst