What are the goals of this project?
This research project will look at a state’s gun polices (comprehensive background checks, checks for purchases at gun shows, concealed carry laws, ‘stand your ground’ laws) and gun culture (percent of population who are licensed hunters, percent of gun-owning households) affect the outcomes listed below. In addition to a state's own polices and culture, the project will also look at whether the gun policies and gun culture of neighboring states affect the outcomes listed below.
We will examine the following outcomes: (1) Firearm deaths (homicide, suicide, accidental). For homicides we will also examine justifiable homicide (i.e. shooting a felon in self-defense), and homicides where the victim knew the perpetrator. (2) Crimes (burglary, robbery, assaults). This is to examine whether there is evidence that stringent gun laws may reduce the ability of citizens to self-defend themselves against criminals, and thereby increase crimes. (3) Gun access among youth. Specifically, whether youth report carrying a gun, including to school, and being threatened by other youth with guns on school property
The results will be published in quality, peer-reviewed journals. We will also make our gun-policy database available to other scientists who wish to do research in this area.
Why is this research important?
This project builds on the researcher's earlier work on gun background checks and firearm deaths. It examines a comprehensive set of outcomes that can tell us more about the effectiveness or lack thereof of state gun laws in making citizens safer. Very importantly, the project will examine the ‘spillover’ effects of the gun policies and culture of neighboring states. This will help us better understand whether a state acting in isolation can make its citizens safer, or whether there is a need for more comprehensive policies undertaken by groups of states, or the country as a whole before any meaningful change can occur.
Up until now this research has not been possible because of a funding freeze. In 1996, lobbying pressures led Congress to cut all CDC funding for research on guns, public health and safety (link). As a result, hundreds of public health scientists who require funding to support their research have not been able to work on this topic. While Obama has talked about restoring the funding, the sequestration poses a major constraint to such research funding.
We are turning to crowdfunding to continue this much-needed research on gun policies and gun violence.
How will the funds be used?
We anticipate that the project will take about 6 months.
The funds will be used to pay two graduate students to collect, clean and compile the data, and to create a distance-weighted index of policies and gun culture in surrounding states.
Per my university’s requirements, I will also need to support my own salary for the time I spend on this project.
For any added costs (e.g. supplies, travel, consulting with other researchers), I will cover them from my own start-up research fund account.
Pre-Analysis Plan: We anticipate using multivariate regression analyses to test the relationship between gun policies and outcomes of interest. In all cases, the null hypothesis being tested is that the policies have no effects on the outcome in question. We will use established econometric techniques to account for the fact that states have different cultures, and so, for example, policies that work in Vermont may not work in the same way in Alabama. These will range from explicitly controlling for gun-culture by measuring current and historic gun-ownership, registered hunters, and political affiliations of state populations. We will also test other techniques (such as using 'fixed effects models') to ensure that our results are reliable, robust and can stand up to scrutiny!