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State Background Checks and Firearms Homicides

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 33 Issue: 2 Dated: March/April 2005 Pages: 127-136
Rick Ruddell; G. Larry Mays
Date Published
March 2005
10 pages
This study explored the relationship between State background checks for firearms purchases and firearm homicides.
There has been considerable public debate on how to most effectively reduce firearms violence in the United States. Some researchers have argued that there is a positive association between the number of firearms in circulation and the amount of gun violence. The current study examined whether making it more difficult to purchase a firearm from the legitimate firearms market would reduce firearms violence. Data under analysis included State-level homicide information for the period 1999 through 2001, percentage of resource deprivation at the State level, degree of urbanization, percentage of State population that is Black, firearms density, firearms regulations and background check policies, percentage of offenders under community supervision, and State-level violent crime rates. Results of statistical analyses indicated that States with less stringent background check policies also had higher rates of firearms homicides. This finding remained significant after controlling for economic and social conditions, firearms density, offenders under community supervision, and violent crime rates. While serious researchers understand that background checks will not deter all ineligible persons from obtaining firearms, stringent background check policies might temporarily frustrate some persons from gun ownership. A combined strategy of stringent background checks and law enforcement targeting of illegally carried firearms may be the most effective strategy to reduce firearms violence in the United States. Tables, appendix, notes, references