Study: Stricter U.S. Gun Laws Would Save Thousands Of Lives

The Rand Corporation spent two years and over $1 million to assess the potential impacts of various gun control laws.

A non-partisan analysis by the Rand Corporation of the potential effect of gun control legislation found that thousands of American lives could be saved by implementing stricter laws.

Rand spent two years and over $1 million on the research, and its analysis included a review of existing research along with input from gun rights and gun control experts.

How might specific changes impact gun-related deaths?

Passing an assault weapons ban might prevent 170 mass shooting deaths a year in the US, experts who support gun control estimate. Passing a universal background check law could prevent 1,100 gun homicides each year. Raising the age limit for buying firearms could prevent 1,600 homicides and suicides.

Rand found varied degrees of evidence for each type of gun legislation it considered; only a handful of laws were backed by strong research.

Child access prevention laws, which are designed to keep guns out of the hands of children, had the strongest evidence behind them, the researchers concluded, and appeared to reduce gun injuries and suicides. The review also found “moderate evidence” that background checks reduce firearm suicides and homicides, and that certain mental health gun prohibitions reduced violent crime.

Also falling into the "moderate" category was evidence showing that "stand your ground" laws might result in higher rates of homicide.

But perhaps most concerning are the issues for which there is insufficient evidence to analyze:

There was only “inconclusive” research evidence about the impact of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines on mass shootings and on violent crime. There was no rigorous research of any kind about the impact of gun-free zones. The research on the impact of laws making it easier to carry concealed firearms was “limited” or inconclusive”.

That lack of evidence is not an accident, but a political choice, shaped by more than two decades of opposition to federally funded gun research from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun rights advocates.

This research desert, says lead researcher Andrew Morral, “creates a fact-free environment, where people can make claims that make problems for legislation moving forward”.

To fill in those gaping holes in what Americans know about how different gun control laws might work, Rand did what policymakers might do when there is no study offering a simple answer: they surveyed longtime gun policy experts about their best guesses about the impact of different laws.

The experts, who included gun policy researchers and affiliates of advocacy groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety, the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, provided their best guesses about how much a given law might affect gun homicides, gun suicides, gun accidents and mass shooting deaths, as well as how much each policy might affect gun industry sales.

The results of the Rand project are available to the public here.