The journal Health Affairs has dedicated its October issue to the issue of gun control, so you’ll be seeing a lot of news about different new studies showing why we need more gun laws on the books over the next few days. Over at Newsweek, writer Asher Stockler has a write up of a University of Michigan study on gun-death rates and claims that the study shows, “that only two states, California and New York, and the District of Columbia saw firearm mortality rates decline in recent years. This is notable considering these jurisdictions’ relatively strict gun laws.”
It’s too bad for Stockler that this isn’t accurate at all. The study actually shows that gun death rates have also declined in Nevada and Arizona (which is a constitutional carry state and has very 2nd Amendment-friendly laws on the books), as well as Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. In fact, just a few paragraphs later, Stockler even notes the decline in Connecticut.
After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2013, Connecticut enacted a sweeping package of gun control legislation, expanding the ban on assault weapons and limiting magazine capacity. While the state saw a decrease in firearm mortality, it was less pronounced than that of California and New York.
Massachusetts, which has strong gun laws including purchaser permitting and school safety measures, did not see a decrease in rates of gun deaths. In fact, the state’s firearm mortality rates increased during the periods studied.
Massachusetts isn’t the only state with restrictive firearms laws that saw a big increase in the gun death rate. New Jersey’s gun death rate increased by more than 20% from 1999 to 2017, as did Illinois’.
Nationally, and in most states, the increase in the gun-related death rate comes solely from the increase in gun-related suicides. Gun-related homicides have declined slightly since 1999, but gun-related suicides have increased dramatically since 2012. Unfortunately, so have non-gun related suicides. Our suicide rate is the highest it’s been since World War II, and it’s not going to be addressed by passing an “assault weapons ban” or a ban on 20-round magazines, which are two of the laws in California and New York cited by Stockler as evidence that restrictive gun laws reduce suicide.
Stockler’s entire premise is that these two states with restrictive gun laws were the only states to see a reduction, but then the writer points out that states like Massachusetts saw their gun-related death rates climb. Stockler also ignores completely the fact that gun-friendly Arizona saw its rate decline. It’s clearly not as simple as “gun control laws reduce gun-related deaths”, because if it were New Jersey’s gun-related death rate wouldn’t have had a bigger increase than the state of Texas. Yet that’s exactly what happened.
More importantly, the issue really isn’t about guns at all. It’s about human beings; those taking their own life and those taking the life of another. If gun-related suicides decline by 10% next year, but drug overdose suicides increase by 20%, is that in any way a success story? Similarly, are the deaths of four homeless men in New York City somehow less important because they were murdered with a blunt object instead of a firearm?
Stockler wanted to make the case that if you want to see gun-related death rates drop, you need New York or California-style gun control laws. Instead, the Newsweek writer ended up inadvertently informing us that you could put restrictive laws on the books like Massachusetts or New Jersey, and still see the gun-death rate get exponentially worse.