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Reducing Gun Violence in America

Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis

edited by Daniel W. Webster and Jon S. Vernick foreword by Michael R. Bloomberg

Publication Year: 2013

Amid a growing consensus that the staggering toll of gun violence in the United States is an urgent public health issue, the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health has convened experts on gun policy and violence from the United States and selected other countries to summarize relevant research and its implications for policymakers and concerned citizens. Legal scholars weigh in on the constitutionality of recommended policies, and researchers present new data on public support for a wide array of policies designed to reduce gun violence. Collected for the first time in one volume, this reliable, empirical research and legal analysis will inform the policy debate by helping lawmakers and opinion leaders identify the policy changes that are most likely to reduce gun violence in the United States. Researchers draw on new and existing studies on U.S. gun policies to demonstrate both the weaknesses of current federal gun policies and the efficacy of various state laws designed to reduce firearm availability to high-risk groups. By analyzing scientific and legal data, the contributors provide evidence in support of enhanced regulation and oversight of licensed gun dealers, background checks for private sales, and purchaser licensing. Lessons from bans of assault weapons and of large-capacity magazines for guns are considered, as is the promise of “smart guns,” which could be fired only by authorized users. Compelling case studies from Australia, Scotland, and Brazil demonstrate effective policy responses to gun violence that have led to significant reductions in gun-related deaths. The book concludes with data on public support for strengthening gun laws and Second Amendment considerations.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xvii

On December 14, 2012, a deranged young man pulled into the parking lot of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and then shot his way into the building with a high-capacity semi-automatic rifle. The slaughter of 6 adults and 20 children...

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pp. xix-xx

One month—to the hour—after the harrowing and unfathomable massacre of 20 children and 6 adults in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, Johns Hopkins University convened a summit that brought together preeminent researchers on gun violence...


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pp. xxi-xxiii

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pp. xxv-xxviii

The role of guns in violence, and what should be done, are subjects of intense debate in the United States and elsewhere. But certain facts are not debatable. More than 31,000 people died from gunshot wounds in the United States in 2010.1 Because the victims...

Part I: Gun Policy Lessons from the United States: Keeping Guns from High-Risk Individuals

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pp. 1-140

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1. Firearms and Violent Death in the United States

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pp. 3-20

In 2010, there were more than 31,000 firearm deaths in the United States: 62% were suicides, 36% were homicides, and 2% were unintentional (2%) (CDC 2012a). Almost as many Americans die from gunfire as die from motor vehicle crashes...

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2. The Limited Impact of the Brady Act: Evaluation and Implications

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pp. 21-32

Federal firearms law divides the population into two groups: those prohibited from legally possessing a firearm due to their criminal record or certain other disqualifying conditions and everyone else. The vast majority of the adult public is allowed to acquire...

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3. Preventing Gun Violence Involving People with Serious Mental Illness

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pp. 33-51

The December 2012 tragedy at Newtown may soon settle in the collective memory of senseless rampages by unstable young men. But in the immediate aftermath, the question of what might have been done to prevent those 28 untimely deaths may galvanize...

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4. Evidence for Optimism: Policies to Limit Batterers' Access to Guns

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pp. 53-63

In 2010, at least 1,082 women and 267 men were killed by their intimate partners. Fifty-four percent of these victims were killed with guns (United States Department of Justice 2012). For at least the past twenty-five years, more intimate partner homicides...

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5. Reconsidering the Adequacy of Current Conditions on Legal Firearm Ownership

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pp. 65-76

An important objective of successful gun violence prevention policy is to keep guns from high-risk individuals without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens to use firearms for protection or recreation. Given the potential of laws designed to keep guns...

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6. Broadening Denial Criteria for the Purchase and Possession of Firearms: Need, Feasibility, and Effectiveness

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pp. 77-93

This essay presents the findings of research relating to criminal activity among legal purchasers of firearms—those who have passed their background checks—and the evidence that extending the denial criteria to additional high risk populations...

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7. Comprehensive Background Checks for Firearm Sales: Evidence from Gun Shows

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pp. 95-107

Many lines of evidence bear on whether to institute a comprehensive background check policy that would extend the current background check and recordkeeping requirements for sales by licensed retailers to sales by private parties. This essay presents...

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8. Preventing the Diversion of Guns to Criminals through Effective Firearm Sales Laws

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pp. 109-121

Preventing individuals who are deemed too risky or dangerous from obtaining firearms is arguably the most important objective of gun control policies. Many perpetrators of gun violence are prohibited by federal law from purchasing firearms from a licensed...

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9. Spurring Responsible Firearms Sales Practices through Litigation: The Impact of New York City's Lawsuits against Gun Dealers on Interstate Gun Trafficking

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pp. 123-131

Surveys of criminals indicate that “street or illegal sources,” family, and friends are the most common proximate sources for criminals to obtain guns (Webster et al., in this volume; Harlow 2004). However, there are little data on how guns are initially diverted...

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10. Curtailing Dangerous Sales Practices by Licensed Firearm Dealers: Legal Opportunities and Obstacles

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pp. 133-140

It is an enlightening truism of gun policy that, in the United States, the vast majority of guns used in crime were originally sold by federally licensed firearm dealers. The primary exceptions are the modest number of guns stolen from manufactures or dealers...

Part II: Making Gun Laws Enforceable

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pp. 141-154

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11. Enforcing Federal Laws against Firearms Traffickers: Raising Operational Effectiveness by Lowering Enforcement Obstacles

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pp. 143-154

Research suggests that only about one of every six firearms used in a crime was obtained legally (Reiss and Roth 1993) and that most serious gun violence is committed by a relatively small number of very active criminals (Braga 2003; Cook, Ludwig...

Part III: Gun Policy Lessons from the United States: High-Risk Guns

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pp. 155-182

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12. America’s Experience with the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, 1994–2004: Key Findings and Implications

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pp. 157-171

In 1994, the federal government imposed a ten-year ban on military-style semi-automatic firearms and ammunition-feeding devices holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. This legislation, commonly known as the federal assault weapons ban, was intended...

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13. Personalized Guns: Using Technology to Save Lives

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pp. 173-182

Gunfire took the lives of 31,672 Americans in 2010.1 Death by gunfire occurs in homes, workplaces, shopping malls, churches, schools, and on the streets, and to Americans of all ages. Often, when possible solutions to this compelling public health problem are considered...

Part IV: International Case Studies of Responses to Gun Violence

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pp. 183-222

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14. Gun Control in Great Britain after the Dunblane Shootings

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pp. 185-193

On March 13, 1996, a man with a grudge against the local community walked into Dunblane Primary School in central Scotland. He was armed with two semi-automatic pistols and two revolvers and carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition loaded into...

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15. Rational Firearm Regulation: Evidence-based Gun Laws in Australia

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pp. 195-204

Australians understand how Americans feel after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, because we had a similar experience in April 1996. In our case a disturbed young man with assault weapons...

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16. The Big Melt: How One Democracy Changed after Scrapping a Third of Its Firearms

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pp. 205-211

In recent years, several democracies have dramatically reduced the availability of firearms to private individuals. I emphasize the word democracies because, contrary to Internet chatter, the countries in which voters have supported gun amnesties and buybacks...

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17. Brazil: Gun Control and Homicide Reduction

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pp. 213-222

Brazil accounts for 13% of the world’s firearm homicides, despite having only 2.8% of the world’s population. Brazil holds the sad world record for the highest number of annual deaths by firearms in absolute numbers. Faced with such deplorable rates of death...

Part V: Second Amendment

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pp. 223-236

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18. The Scope of Regulatory Authority under the Second Amendment

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pp. 225-236

The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” In District of Columbia v. Heller,1 the U.S. Supreme...

Part VI: Public Opinion on Gun Policy

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pp. 237-262

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19. Public Opinion on Proposals to Strengthen U.S. Gun Laws: Findings from a 2013 Survey

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pp. 239-257

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, policy proposals to reduce gun violence are being actively considered and debated at the national, state, and local levels. Within weeks of the mass shooting...

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Consensus Recommendations for Reforms to Federal Gun Policies

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pp. 259-262

On January 14 and 15, 2013, the Johns Hopkins University brought together more than 20 global leaders in gun policy and violence—representing the fields of law, medicine, public health, advocacy and public safety—for the Summit on Reducing Gun Violence...

Biographies of Contributors

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pp. 263-273


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pp. 275-282

E-ISBN-13: 9781421411118
E-ISBN-10: 1421411113
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421411101
Print-ISBN-10: 1421411105

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013