Fred Natkevi recently [Better no law than a flawed law, Viewpoints, Jan. 13] expressed the opinion that gun regulations seem to have largely failed in addressing gun violence in this country, and that the bitter and divisive fights over such legislation point to the futility of such measures in addressing a multifaceted problem.
I believe that such pessimism, while understandable, is unwarranted. There is data to support a more positive opinion.
For one, the states with the most restrictive gun laws in this country have the lowest rate of gun-related deaths. Massachusetts and New York, as cases in point, have three or four gun deaths per 100,000 people, per year. In contrast, states with the least restrictive regulations, Alaska and Louisiana, have five times that rate: 19 gun deaths per 100,000 people.
It is true that other factors must be considered before drawing a correlation between gun regulations and gun deaths. For example, Alaska and Louisiana also have a higher incidence of divorce, drug addiction, and alcoholism than the lower gun death states. They also fund fewer social service resources to deal with these problems than have Massachusetts and New York. For these reasons, one would wish for more robust evidence that gun regulations, per se, reduce gun deaths.
Fortunately, there is such evidence.
Missouri a few years ago made it easier to buy handguns. Subsequently there was a 25% increase in gun homicides, according to a study in the Journal of Urban Health. On the other hand, Connecticut tightened regulations on the purchase of handguns. The firearm homicide rate subsequently decreased by 40%. All this data points to the fact that not all gun regulation need be federal in order to have some impact.
Opponents of increased gun regulations point out that over 300,000 guns are stolen each year; presumably the thieves are not going to be obeying any laws or regulations regarding their stolen weapons. The Obama administration, however, is pushing for further research into “smart gun technology,” which would only allow a gun to operate with a certain fingerprint, or PIN number. Leaving aside theft, this could prevent the average of one death per week currently resulting from a toddler pulling a trigger.
President Obama recently shed tears of frustration at his inability to reduce the amount of mayhem and death caused by firearms in this country. I share his feelings. No, incremental changes such as smart gun technology or strengthening background check requirements or eliminating 40- and 50-bullet ammunition clips, will likely not stop the next mass murder or terrorist attack. But they could and likely would stop some deaths from occurring.
They would also help to further define our nation as one where “liberty” does not mean, “anything goes.”