A brand new massive peer-reviewed study, released yesterday, reports that the greater the number of gun owners in the United States, the higher the gun murder rate goes. The study authors have concluded that more gun owners correlates to more gun murder and suicide. The study has been published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Public Health and study authors say it is the largest of its kind ever performed. Particularly significant are the extensive controls the study researchers used; a greater number of controls than previously used in any other gun study.
The areas of control were:
Age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanization, poverty, unemployment, income, education, income inequality, divorce rate, alcohol use, violent crime rate, nonviolent crime rate, hate crime rate, number of hunting licenses, age-adjusted nonfirearm homicide rate, incarceration rate, and suicide rate.
Researchers focused on 29 years of gun ownership across the entire United States to examine the data. This time period is the longest amount of time ever examined for a study on guns, the study authors say. The time period included in the study was 1981-2010.
The study authors found that increases in gun ownership equated with an almost equal increase in gun murders. “For each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership,” they wrote, “firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9″ percent.
Using Mississippi as an example when looking at the suicide and murder rate increase as it pertains to gun ownership, they explained: “All other factors being equal, our model would predict that if the FS/S in Mississippi were 57.7% (the average for all states) instead of 76.8% (the highest of all states), its firearm homicide rate would be 17% lower.”
This correlation between more gun owners and more gun murders and suicides does not indicate a direct causal relationship. Rather, study researchers described the results of the massive study a “robust correlation.” Said the researchers: “Although we could not determine causation, we found that states with higher levels of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.”
This new massive study contradicts some earlier research on gun control. For example, in 2007, a study out of Harvard University found that there was no correlation between gun control and a reduction in homicides. That paper, entitled “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?” found that a link between an increased number of guns and an increased number of violent crimes did not exist. They said that the idea that more guns equal more crime was “substantially false.”
For the Harvard study, the researchers examined countries all around the world, not just in the United States. They found that more guns resulted in fewer murders, explaining:
If more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death, areas within nations with higher gun ownership should in general have more murders than those with less gun ownership in a similar area. But, in fact, the reverse pattern prevails.
Studies on guns and homicide/suicide, while plentiful, offer decidedly mixed results. Some studies which are widely cited as finding no link between guns and murders have been performed by members of gun clubs or the National Rifle Association. This leads many to question the amount of bias that exists in such studies.
However, the same could be said for studies which support the idea of fewer guns leading to fewer murders. Often, the study authors’ motivations are called into question. One thing on which everyone can rely is that the raging debate over gun control in the United States will continue. Whether this new massive study that reports more gun owners equals more gun murders will change the conversation is anybody’s guess.
By: Rebecca Savastio