A research journal claims that the states with higher levels of gun ownership experience more mass shootings compared to those who have stricter gun controls. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting System’s data on mass shootings between 1998 to 2015 were analyzed in this study. Records show that crime is considered a mass shooting only when four or more people are murdered using a firearm. It had two categories, domestic and non-domestic incidents.
Researchers used a scale of 0-100 in gun law strictness, with 100 indicating complete permissiveness. They based the scoring on 13 factors, which include the limitations of owning semi-automatic rifles and machine guns; citizen having the right to carry weapons anywhere, and if self-defense is practiced as a right, and the list goes on. The researchers knew that the number of documented gun ownership in all the 50 states each year wasn’t accurate so they had to gather data on all firearm-related suicides from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help them get a more solid figure.
Massachusetts appears to impose the strictest gun laws, while Vermont seemed to be the most lenient. In general, the study concluded that the firearms laws across the states in the U.S. have become .16 points more permissive on an annual basis between 1998 to 2014. Enough years for 344 mass shootings to happen, according to data gathered from the Uniform Crime Reports. 263 of those were non-domestic, and 81 were domestic. The frequency of mass shootings across the states increased from 2010 onward, when the gun laws became lax. A small rise of 10% in gun ownership is linked to a 35% increase in mass shootings. Data gathered from California, a state that witnesses at least two mass shootings every year, reveals that a slight increase in gun ownership every half a decade can cause an additional three to five more mass shootings.
Paul Reeping, the co-author of the study, acknowledged that their research was limited. He added that it was a challenge for them to be 100% accurate when states constantly change their laws on top of other factors that are immeasurable. Despite including vital factors like education, incarceration rate, poverty, and the likes. They also took into account the time it takes to reverse the effects of mass shootings after changing gun laws within a 15 year period. Reeping mentioned that his team was concerned about the FBI under-reporting their Uniform Crime Reporting System Supplemental Homicide data. He said that it could greatly affect their conclusion especially when some states chose to not fully provide a report. An example would be Alabam, who provided incomplete information.
He believes that because of this, their study would most likely conclude an inaccurate number, if not underestimated. Paul pointed out that states with permissive gun laws provided inconsistent reporting of homicides. The reason for their study is to help policymakers make informed decisions in making firearm laws in their respective states. Reeping called on his fellow researchers to focus on the before and after results of repeal or enactment of gun laws.
Dr. Stephanie Chao of Stanford School of Medicine co-authored a study on gun laws and child mortality said in an interview with Newsweek that mass shootings were a difficult topic because information about it is limited. It’s hard to determine the accuracy of correlating the effect of legislation to mass shootings. The extent that it is enforced at a local level means that researchers have to live in every state for many years to at least get some level of accuracy, which doesn’t guarantee any result.