Mandatory storage laws are actually fairly popular, at least in the abstract. After all, most people support the idea of locking your guns up when not in use and we can all imagine what kind of calamity might happen if you don’t.
But mandating that they be locked up is a different matter entirely, and while they’re fairly popular, they’re not nearly as popular as some might argue.
A recent study suggests, though, that mandatory storage laws significantly reduce child deaths.
A meta-analysis of more than 150 studies on the impact of U.S. gun control policies suggests laws aimed at preventing children from accessing firearms are effective at reducing firearm deaths. In contrast, laws that strengthen concealed-carry and stand-your-ground protections tend to increase gun-related violence.
The report, issued today by the nonprofit RAND Corporation, recommends federal and state lawmakers adopt child access prevention laws and amend or repeal stand-your-ground laws. The analysis also underscores the need for ongoing research on guns and violence, outside experts say.
“This is extremely useful work,” says Elinore Kaufman, a trauma surgeon and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the work. “It’s helpful to researchers to orient towards what we can consider established and what needs to be figured out.”
But, how accurate is this study? Or, perhaps more accurately, how accurate is this report on the study?
See, meta-analysis is the highest form of research. It’s the kind of study that should be listened to above all others, mostly because it takes all the existing research and distills it down to determine what’s really going on. After all, one study may find one thing and another find something different, but a meta-analysis will combine those two studies and 50 others to delve to the truth.
Or, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.
The problem is that we also know a lot of gun research is absolute garbage.
That’s problem one. Problem two is that while the study might be a good-faith attempt at finding the truth, a report about that study may gloss over issues.
Take, for example, the claim that the study found that mandatory storage laws are good. What did they really find?
Well, RAND’s phrasing is a bit different.
We identified five studies that examined the effects of CAP laws on firearm homicide or murder rates. Cummings et al. (1997a) reported a suggestive effect consistent with CAP laws reducing firearm homicide rates among children aged 14 or younger. Anderson and Sabia (2018) found uncertain effects of these laws on school shootings that involved a homicide. Anderson, Sabia, and Tekin (2018) found that CAP laws were significantly associated with reductions in firearm murders committed by youths. Azad et al. (2020) found evidence that CAP laws that include negligent storage provisions significantly reduce firearm homicide victimizations among those 14 and under. Finally, Schell et al. (2020) found suggestive evidence that these laws reduce firearm homicides in the total population. In addition, DeSimone, Markowitz, and Xu (2013) found that CAP laws reduced nonfatal firearm assault injuries among both youth and adults; results showed suggestive or significant effects depending on the age group and class of law being evaluated. Considering the relative strengths of these studies, we find supportive evidence that child-access prevention laws reduce firearm homicides or firearm assault injuries among young people.
Three studies examined the effects of CAP laws on overall homicide rates or other violent crime outcomes. Lott and Whitley (2001) found that these laws had an uncertain effect on murder rates but significantly increased rates of robbery and rape. They also reported a suggestive effect consistent with the laws decreasing assault rates. Sabbath, Hawkins, and Baum (2020) found that the number of provisions related to safe storage was significantly associated with reduced workplace homicide rates, and Schell et al. (2020) found uncertain effects of CAP laws on total homicide rates. Considering the relative strengths of these studies, we find inconclusive evidence for the effects of child-access prevention laws on total homicide rates and other violent crimes.
First, there’s the phrase “supportive evidence” that mandatory storage laws reduce gun homicides, which isn’t a slam dunk, but suggests there might be something there.
Yet they found no conclusive evidence that such laws had an impact on overall homicide rates. That’s very important since the goal is supposedly to save lives. If mandatory storage laws don’t reduce homicide rates, then why bother?
Unless, of course, your argument is that somehow a life lost is only valid if you’re shot to death.
But what about Stand Your Ground laws? The story about the study mentioned those as well. Yet here’s what we have from RAND.
- Limited evidence that stand-your-ground laws increase rates of robbery and assault.
Now, if you look deeper, there are aspects where RAND does say there’s supportive evidence, but we also have to remember the overall problem of gun studies in general.
Further, let’s not delude ourselves that the RAND Corporation is an unbiased entity. They’re known to have a leftward bias, which means they’re more likely to rationalize their way into findings that benefit a preferred narrative.
In other words, I’m not reading too much into any of this.