The next time someone tells you tougher gun laws don’t do anything, show them this study

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A common refrain from pro-gun activists has long been that even if America did enact tougher gun laws, those laws wouldn't actually bring down gun deaths. 

According to a convincing new study by the magazine National Journal, however, the opposite is true: States with stricter gun laws, the study found, have fewer shooting-related deaths.

The study's data includes homicides, accidents, suicides, and legal interventions that involved a firearm in 2013. Hawaii had the fewest shooting-deaths per 100,000 people (2.6 per capita). Hawaii has a two-week waiting period to purchase a handgun, which must then be registered. It is also very difficult to obtain concealed or open carry permits. Conversely, Alaska, which joined the United States in the same year as Hawaii, has extremely lax gun laws and saw 19.8 deaths per capita in the same period of time.

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The study also found that in states without "stand your ground" laws ("duty to retreat" states) "the av­er­age rate of gun hom­icides in 2013 was 1.15 lower (per 100,000 people) than in states that do have such laws."

As Fusion reported yesterday, similar recent research by Johns Hopkins found that the high number of gun deaths in America is directly related to the high number of guns available. National Journal points out that while all commercial gun sales require a federal background check, this does not extend to private transactions made online or at gun shows. It's estimated that around 40% of gun sales are made privately. The study found that the states that have closed this loophole saw fewer shooting-related deaths in 2013. Similarly, states where it is prohibited or made more difficult to obtain a conceal carry saw the same trend.

The data is all about averages though, of course. In 2013, Virginia had the 19th-fewest gun-related deaths, but that did not stop Vester Lee Flanagan, Jr. from shooting and killing WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward.


Head over to the National Journal to see more charts from the study.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him:

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