Research Reports

Gun Violence Prevention Research: Spring Newsletter


By: Jessyca Dudley, Program Officer, Gun Violence Prevention

We are excited to launch an important new initiative of the Joyce Foundation’s Gun Violence Prevention program, one we hope you will find informative and useful. Starting today, we will be sharing research on gun violence in a new format, as a quarterly research report to elevate solutions that address gun violence in our communities

Data access and research play a significant role in informing and shaping strategies to reduce gun violence, and this has been a key area of focus since we began our gun violence work in 1993. We want to share this research with policy makers, advocates, law enforcement and the public to improve our collective understanding of the problem of gun violence in America and solutions that can prevent it.

In this issue we explore:

We look forward to sharing what we are learning with you, and hope you will share your feedback and insights as we grow this new resource.

Firearms, alcohol and crime

Firearm owners with a history of alcohol-related convictions are up to five times more likely to be arrested for violent or firearm-related crimes as those without an alcohol history, finds a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis. The study suggests that restricting access to firearms among those with a history of alcohol-related convictions could reduce the risk of violence.

The study is consistent with earlier research linking alcohol abuse and violent behavior, but breaks new ground in finding a connection between prior alcohol convictions and future crime.

The researchers studied public records corresponding to more than 4,000 legal firearms owners in California over a 14-year period. They learned that those with prior alcohol-related convictions were four to five times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes involving firearms than those with no previous criminal record.

News outlets including Vox, The Trace, and The Daily Mail have reported on the research. Read more.

Firearm acquisitions without background checks

Recent research co-led by Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center shows that the number of American gun owners who have passed a background check before acquiring their firearms appears to be growing, representing significant expansion in the use of background checks since the last similar study was conducted two decades ago.

The latest survey of gun owners, conducted in 2015 and published in the Annals of Medicine, shows that 22 percent acquired a gun in the prior two years without a background check. The most recent previous survey, conducted in 1994, pegged that figure at 40 percent.

However, the researchers say millions still are able to avoid such scrutiny when buying guns through private-party transactions or online, particularly in states that do not regulate private sales. Recent articles in The New York Times, Reuters and Mother Jones illustrate why those types of sales need greater regulation. Read more.

Impact of Connecticut’s risk-based civil gun removal law on suicides

A groundbreaking Connecticut law allowing police to remove guns temporarily from individuals identified as posing a risk to themselves or others prompted a drop in gun suicides, a new study by Jeffery Swanson and researchers at Duke University reports. Researchers estimated the law prevented 71 gun suicides during the period of the study, from 1999 to 2013.

The Connecticut law, passed in 1999, allows police to temporarily remove guns from individuals at risk of harming themselves or others, through a legal process requiring a civil warrant. The study examined 762 gun-removal cases; in the majority (61 percent), the seizures were used to prevent self-harm. The researchers estimated the rate of suicide prevention based on known fatality ratios for suicides.

Other states since have passed or are considering similar gun-removal laws. The online news outlet The Trace is among those covering the issue. Read more.

Guns in intimate-partner violence

The dangers of guns in situations of domestic violence extends beyond shootings and homicides. A new study by Susan Sorenson of the University of Pennsylvania shows that the mere presence of a gun often is enough to pose harm, because abusers use guns to intimidate and control, rather than injure, their victims.

Building on the large body of evidence demonstrating the lethality of firearms in situations of domestic violence, this research sheds light on the psychological impact of gun use in abusive relationships. The study examined more than 35,000 police records from domestic violence calls in Philadelphia during 2013. It compared outcomes of cases involving no weapon to those involving guns, and to those involving weapons other than guns. Victims in incidents with guns had fewer physical injuries than those involving other types of weapons; suggesting that abusers often use guns not to injure their victims, but to assert control over them, particularly those who are considering leaving the relationship.

As a recent Huffington Post article argues, the damage done by this harmful dynamic — known as coercive control — demonstrates the need to separate domestic abusers from their guns. Read more.

Recent research and updates:

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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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