Study finds Massachusetts gun-control legislation had virtually no effect on violent crime

A new study examined the impact changes to background checks and licensing policies has made on different types of violent crime in Massachusetts.

The study, by a researcher at American University (AU), appears in Justice Quarterly, a publication of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. The study found no immediate impact, suggesting that state lawmakers may want to ensure their legislation is being implemented as intended.

“Gun violence remains at the forefront of the public policy debate when it comes to enacting new or strengthening existing gun legislation in the United States,” explains Janice Iwama, assistant professor of justice, law, and criminology at AU, who conducted the study. “Yet the political polarization and relatively limited scholarly research on guns and gun violence make it difficult for policymakers and practitioners to enact and implement legislation that addresses the public health and safety issues associated with gun violence.”

The study used models to predict counts of violent crimes, using data from the FBI, and considering variables that represent the percentage of all denied applications, the percentage of denied applications due to unsuitability, and the percentage of denied applications due to statutory disqualification (e.g., criminal history record, mental health record, fugitive status) at the county level.

Based on the percent of firearms licenses, about 1 to 5 percent of adult residents had a firearms license in Massachusetts counties. But the study found no consistent effect of the new legislation on reducing four types of violent crime (murder or nonnegligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, robbery, rape). Her study did find that a one-percent increase in denied firearm licenses and denied firearm licenses following statutory disqualifications increased robberies 7.3 and 8.9 percent, respectively.

The author of the study Janice Iwama did state that it had limitations. Iwama noted that the data collected from the FBI was not complete because of changes in reporting practices.

In addition, the percentage of firearms licenses, which she used as a proxy for gun ownership, represents neither a perfect measure of gun owners nor an accurate count of the number of firearms available by county. Finally, the small size of the study’s sample hindered the author’s ability to examine patterns across different counties in the state.




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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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