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Study reveals gaps in gun law research, offers possible solutions

After yet another school shooting, debate has again erupted over what can be done to improve gun laws in the United States.

Although many calls have been made for firmer policies and sensible gun control, the realities of implementing such policies have been a complex struggle.

Studies that examine the effects of potential gun laws are actually few and far between, which means that policymakers have little evidence to offer when it comes to the advantages of implementing firmer gun laws.

A new study by the RAND Corporation’s Gun Policy in America initiative found that there has been a surprisingly small amount of research on the effectiveness of gun laws, but that several common gun policies have been shown to work.

The goal of the Gun Policy in America initiative is to help bridge this gap and provide nonpartisan data that could inform discussions about gun policy.

Researchers from RAND collected and reviewed thousands of studies to find any available evidence that the effect of 13 common gun policies would have on gun violence and gun owners.

Of those, there were 62 studies that investigated the causal effects of gun policies on different outcomes that the RAND researchers included in their assessment.

“While science can teach us a lot about gun policy, research in this area is generally far behind where it is for most other causes of death that claim similar numbers of lives in the U.S. each year,” Said Andrew Morral, the project’s leader. “This does not mean that gun policies have no effects. Most laws probably have some effect, however small or intended. Instead, the limited evidence base reflects shortcomings in the contributions that scientific study has made to the policy debate.”

95 gun policy experts were also interviewed representing a wide range of views, with some aligning with the NRA and others in favor of stricter gun control.

For the study, these views were grouped into two different sets with opposing ideologies. The researchers wanted to see if there was any overlapping consensus or agreement between the two different groups.

The two groups disagreed about the merits and impact of different gun laws, but both wanted to reduce instances of gun fatalities.

“Both groups overwhelmingly favored policies they believed would reduce firearm homicides and suicides, but there is disagreement about which laws would have these effects,” said Morral. “Collecting more and stronger evidence about the true effects of laws is a necessary and promising step toward building greater consensus around the effective gun policy.”

After evaluating both the studies and the interviews, the results showed that policies designed to limit firearm self-injuries, suicides, and unintended injuries to children by keeping guns away from children would have the most positive impact.

There was also moderate evidence that supported the positive impact that background checks would have on reducing suicides and homicides by firearm.

The RAND researchers say their study emphasizes the need for funding for research on the effects of gun control laws.

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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