Study Claims Neighbors' Lax Gun Laws Thwart Gun Control Efforts

Let’s say you live in a state with relatively few gun laws. Your state is relatively peaceful, too. Oh, the bigger cities have their share of violence, to be sure, but most of your state is pretty chill.

Next door, though, is a state that has more problems. Most of the state is fine, of course, but the large city there is reminiscent of Beirut in the 80s. That state has tons of gun laws, but none of them have done much of anything to stop the violence. Shocking, I know.

However, then someone comes along and blames your state for that other state’s problems. How are you going to react?

Some will somehow think it’s your state’s duty to restrict gun rights so that other state can get their house in order while more will wonder why that’s your state’s problem in the first place.

Yet now there’s a study making the claim that its your state’s fault.

Overall, research indicates that stronger state laws governing the sale and ownership of firearms reduce firearm-related deaths. However, some states have relatively high rates of gun deaths despite strict regulations.

To investigate why this might be the case, scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Boston University School of Public Health at Boston, MA, looked into the effects of firearm laws in neighboring states.

They used the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System to obtain figures for firearm-related deaths in the 48 adjacent U.S. states from 2000 to 2017.

There were 578,022 firearm deaths in total, including homicides and suicides, but excluding deaths due to shootings by police or other law enforcement agents.

The scientists also searched the State Firearm Laws Database for laws in each state regarding:

  • background checks
  • gun dealer regulations
  • buyer regulations
  • gun-trafficking laws

The team used the number of these laws as a proxy for gun control strength in each state.

Their first mistake was believing the incredibly flawed research they’re citing.

However, they go on.

Overall, stronger state gun laws were associated with reduced firearm deaths, but having a neighboring state with more permissive laws undermined this protective effect.

Larger policy differences across state borders were associated with increased gun-related deaths, suicides, and homicides, though the results were statistically stronger for suicide than homicide.

The authors conclude:

“This study adds to the growing literature emphasizing the role played by neighboring states’ firearm regulations in addition to own-state firearm regulations in firearm deaths. Failing to account for neighboring states with weaker laws, in some instances, can make a state’s own regulations appear less effective in reducing firearm deaths.”

The scientists calculate that, on average, failure to account for weaker firearm laws in neighboring states make it appear as though a state’s laws were about 20% less effective at reducing deaths than they really were.

Except, I don’t buy it.

See, Chicago, as an example, continues to blame Indiana for their problems, yet Indiana doesn’t have anything like Chicago’s problems in the first place. In other words, it isn’t the availability of firearms that’s the problem.

Further, federal law requires out-of-state purchases to follow the laws of the buyer’s home state. In other words, if you buy a gun in Indiana and you’re from Illinois, you have to comply with Illinois state law. So people can’t just roll into a less regulated state and lawfully bypass their state’s gun control laws.

In other words, if people are buying guns in other states, they’re either using straw buyers (which are illegal) or otherwise breaking federal law to do so.

Meanwhile, those states with laxer gun laws tend to not be nearly as violent as the states having issues. Funny how that shakes out, isn’t it?

However, for the sake of argument, let’s say the states around Illinois decide it’s their duty to help. They enact Illinois-style gun control. According to the study, this will stop people from buying guns, right?

Wrong.

At worst, they’ll just drive further to get them illegally. That’s it.

Look, the problem with violent crime in these cities isn’t guns and never has been. The problem is that for some reason, these cities can’t get a handle on violence. If guns alone accounted for violent crime, the rural parts of the country would be completely unpopulated because of all the murders. They’re not.

All this study has done is try to provide justification for some states to try and force their neighbors to adopt draconian gun restrictions. That’s it.

It’s not going to work.