Research Reports

Gun Violence Prevention Research Report: Winter 2018 Newsletter


By Jessyca Dudley, Program Officer, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform

As the new year begins, we bring you the latest issue of the Joyce Foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention Research Report. This issue includes new research on reducing intimate partner homicide, findings on the content of firearms trainings, and public awareness of the risks of gun ownership for suicide.

We hope you find this new research valuable, and encourage you to provide your feedback and insights.

*State laws restricting firearms for domestic violence offenders reduce homicides

While overall rates of crime, violence, and murder continue to decline, the proportion of female homicide victims who are killed by their intimate partners remains high. In 2015, 3,519 girls and women in the United States were the victims of homicide - more than half (55%) of them killed in situations involving intimate partner violence, and firearms were used in nearly 40% of these homicides. New research led by April Zeoli of Michigan State University finds that states can significantly reduce intimate partner homicide by enacting laws that prohibit access to firearms for those convicted of violent misdemeanors; restrict access to firearms by offenders subject to a restraining order; require firearms be surrendered from prohibited abusers; and require a permit to purchase a firearm.

The study, Analysis of the Strength of Legal Firearms Restrictions for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Their Association With Intimate Partner Homicide, finds that:

  • State laws that prohibit people convicted of any violent misdemeanors from owning firearms are associated with a 23% reduction in intimate partner homicides.
  • In the 29 states that restrict access to firearms by people who are subject to a domestic violence restraining order, there is a 9% reduction in intimate partner homicides, which confirms earlier research findings.
  • Reductions in intimate partner homicide are most pronounced in states where domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) laws apply to dating partners and require prohibited abusers to surrender their firearms.
  • Including dating partners is key – in the 22 states where restraining orders for dating partners include firearm restrictions there is a 10% decrease in romantic partner homicides and a 14% reduction in intimate partner homicides committed with firearms.
  • Laws that include emergency domestic violence restraining orders as a basis for prohibiting gun possession are associated with a 12% reduction in intimate partner homicides.
  • Permit-to-purchase laws are associated with a 11% reduction in intimate partner homicides.

Laws in many states provide only limited protection to victims of domestic violence. Laws that merely prohibit gun possession by people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors were not found to reduce intimate partner homicide. Likewise, many state laws do not cover abuse by dating partners. To better protect people from becoming victims of intimate partner homicide, the authors suggest that policy makers should:

  • Prohibit gun ownership for people convicted of any violent misdemeanor.
  • Restrict access to firearms by people who are subject to domestic violence restraining orders.
  • Include coverage for dating partners in domestic violence policies.
  • Require firearms be surrendered from prohibited abusers.
  • Require a permit to purchase a firearm.

Key findings from Analysis of the Strength of Legal Firearms Restrictions for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence and Their Association With Intimate Partner Homicide should inform policy makers and advocates in crafting laws that maximize protections against intimate partner homicide and protect the safety of victims.

Stories about this research have appeared in The New York Times.

*This study was updated in November 2018 to correct errors in the implementation dates of laws originally studied, which impacted some findings. The updated 2018 version notes:

  • Data still support the original finding that firearm restrictions that include a broader set of domestic violence offenders are associated with decreases in intimate partner homicide.
  • Laws that require relinquishment of firearms from persons subject to domestic violence restraining orders are linked to reductions in intimate partner homicide.
  • Analysis of the new data eliminates the finding that laws requiring permits to purchase handguns reduce intimate partner homicides.

To view the updated study, please click here.

Firearms training rarely includes suicide prevention

There is little published research about the content of firearms training classes, but a new paper by Harvard’s David Hemenway and colleagues begins to shed a little more light on this area by reviewing data collected from handgun safety classes in seven states. In their paper, Firearms training: what is actually taught?, researchers found that most instructors covered a wide range of safety topics, but only 10% of them discussed firearm suicide. Suicides account for 60% of firearm deaths in the United States, and a large body of research finds that access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide. Handgun safety classes are an important source of information for gun owners, and greater attention to the risks of firearm suicide could improve firearm storage practices and other prevention strategies.

A story about this research appeared in Reuters.

New research from the 2015 National Firearms Survey

The National Firearms Survey, the first nationally representative exploration in more than two decades into how and why Americans keep and use weapons, continues to provide valuable information about gun ownership and gun carrying behavior in the U.S. Recently released research offers new insights into:

  • Public misperceptions about the relationship between firearms and suicide. Researchers found that only 15% of U.S. adults believe that the presence of a firearm in the home increases the risk for suicide. Despite the wealth of research which demonstrates that gun availability is a risk factor for suicide and that firearms are used in more than half of all suicides; this finding suggests a need for public education about these risks. As noted above, handgun safety classes rarely include information about firearm suicide, a missed opportunity to address suicide risk and measures that can reduce that risk.
  • Loaded handgun carrying among U.S. adults. The study showed that about 9 million of the 38 million adult handgun owners in the U.S. carried a loaded handgun on their person in the 30 days prior to the survey. Of that number, one in three — approximately 3 million people — carried a handgun every day. Of those who said they carried a handgun, 80% did so primarily for protection, and the same proportion had a concealed-carry permit. Allowing private citizens to carry handguns in public places has implications for public health and public safety as these laws are linked with increases in violent crime.
  • Firearm ownership among veterans. In the first study to provide detailed, nationally representative information about firearm ownership among U.S. veterans, researchers found that nearly half (44.9%) of all people who have served in the armed services own a firearm, compared to just one in five non-veterans. Since 2001, veteran suicides have increased by 32%, a concerning trend that merits accurate data on gun ownership to develop effective interventions.

Stories about this research have appeared in The Boston Globe and The Nation.

Recent research and updates:
  • The Illinois Violent Death Reporting System (IVDRS finds that homicides in Chicago are highly concentrated in a small subset of communities, which have homicide rates 7 to 17 times higher than the national rate and 2 to 5 times higher than the city’s overall. Read more in their report Homicide in Chicago Community Areas 2007–2015: Concentrated Risk and Stable Rates.
  • New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the rate of gun deaths in the United States increased by 17% from 2009-2016. The Violence Policy Center’s analysis of the data finds that states with high levels of gun ownership and laws that add little or nothing to federal law and have permissive laws governing the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public, lead the nation in gun death rates.

About The Joyce Foundation

Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

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