As lawmakers in Hartford and Washington debate new and stronger laws to reduce gun violence, a new study suggests their work is worthwhile.
The study, by researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital, finds a strong connection between stricter gun control laws and lower rates of gun deaths at the state level.
The researchers looked at the "legislative strength" of gun control laws in each state — do they require background checks, outlaw gun trafficking, ban military-style weapons, ensure child safety and restrict guns in public places? They found that states with the strictest gun control laws had lower rates of gun-related homicides and suicides in the years 2007-10. Louisiana had the highest rate of gun-related fatalities at 17.9 per 100,000, and Hawaii had the lowest at 2.9. Connecticut, 5.1, has among the most laws and fewest gun fatalities.
The authors concede the study has limits. They could not control for such things as enforcement of gun laws, and do not assert a cause-and-effect relationship between strict laws and fewer gun deaths, saying more research is necessary. The National Rifle Association and others have, of course, been doing their effective best to block research into gun violence.
Unlike automobile fatalities, which are dropping, the number of guns deaths has been stable for the past decade, at more than 31,000 a year. The Boston study helpfully points out the financial cost of this mostly needless tragedy, which in enormous. In 2005, the medical costs associated with fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries were estimated at $112 million and $599 million, respectively, and work-loss costs were estimated at $40.5 billion.
If there is a lawmaker who is unmoved by the murders of 20 children and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, consider how many good things can be done with all that money.