Reducing gun violence: Stanford scholars tackle the issue
UPDATED: March 24, 2021
After recent shootings at a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, and at a spa in Atlanta, Georgia, many Americans are asking, yet again, how to prevent future acts of senseless violence from occurring. Concerns are being raised about the causes and solutions to gun violence: Why are so many people killed each year by guns? What gun laws need to be changed? How can Second Amendment rights be balanced with firearm safety?
Stanford scholars have been studying these issues from a range of perspectives, including law, politics, economics and medicine. Here are some of their findings.
Reducing Gun Violence
Many Americans are demanding practical steps to reduce gun crime. One way is to have more stringent gun safety policies, such as legislation requiring guns to be stored safely, more stringent background checks, or as President Biden announced Tuesday, a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Research has shown that states with tighter policies save lives: one study by Stephanie Chao found that states with stricter gun laws have lower rates of gun deaths among children and teenagers, and states with child prevention access laws are linked with fewer gun suicides in this age group.
“If you put more regulations on firearms, it does make a difference,” said Chao, assistant professor of surgery and senior author of the study. “It does end up saving children’s lives.” Her analysis found that states with the strictest laws had a mortality rate of 2.6 per 100,000 and for states with the least strict laws, mortality rate was almost double at 5.0 per 100,000.
Causes, impacts of gun violence
Uncovering the causes of gun violence has been a challenge, in part because research is limited by federal legislation that limits research funding on the issue. Stanford scholar Nigam Shah at the Stanford School of Medicine (SoM) has written about how this has affected empirical study. But that has not deterred scholars from examining its impacts. David Studdert, also at SoM, has studied the devastating consequences of gun violence, particularly the risks it poses to public health.
Maya Rossin-Slater, an assistant professor of medicine and a faculty fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), has also looked at the long-term impact of gun violence, specifically among American children who experienced a shooting at their school. Rossin-Slater found that they have higher rates of absenteeism, lower high school and college graduation rates, and by their mid-twenties, earn lower incomes.
Below is some of that research.
Gun Legislation and Policy
For nearly three decades, Law Professor John Donohue III has studied what can be done to prevent gun violence in the United States. A lawyer and economist, Donohue explores how law and public policy are connected to gun violence, including how gun laws in the U.S. compare to other countries, as well as how legislation varies across the states, to better understand the effect that has on rates of violence.
“The U.S. is by far the world leader in the number of guns in civilian hands,” Donohue explained. “The stricter gun laws of other “advanced countries” have restrained homicidal violence, suicides and gun accidents – even when, in some cases, laws were introduced over massive protests from their armed citizens.”
Here are some of his findings, and other research related to legislating gun safety in the U.S.