This paper reports on the development of a dataset to identify Federal and State firearm laws covering the period from 1970 to 1999 for all 50 States and the Federal system to allow for better public policy decisionmaking.
A comprehensive dataset of State and Federal gun laws with the precise effectiveness dates for each law has generally not been available. This creates an absence of a critical mass of high-quality published studies on the effectiveness of specific gun laws giving reason as to why gun violence research has not exerted a greater influence on public policy. This chapter reports on the preparation of just such a dataset, covering the period from 1970 to 1999 for all 50 States and the Federal system. The primary source of information, about Federal and State firearm laws, was the compiled statutes of each State and the United States Code. The paper describes the Federal, State, and local laws and how they vary within a given category of law. For the purposes of analyzing the geographic and temporal distribution of State gun laws, 18 different State laws described were used. The dataset developed allows researchers to examine the possible effects of different categorization schemes for some laws. Scholars need to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of laws, and only those that are judged beneficial will be retained or replicated. By making it possible to easily identify which laws were and were not in effect in each State during a given time, it is hoped that this dataset will facilitate new evaluation research. Tables, comments, and references
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