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Recent Study Shows Stronger Firearms Laws Associated with Fewer Fatal Shootings by Police

By Elisabeth J. Ryan

In 2015 and 2016, at least 2239 people were killed by police in the United States, overwhelmingly by gunshot.  But a recent study shows that fatal shootings by police are half as common in states with stricter firearms laws than in those with the most permissive laws.  Firearm Legislation and Fatal Police Shootings in the United States (by Aaron J. Kivisto, Bradley Ray, and Peter L. Phalen), published in the July 2017 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, primarily used data on police shootings collected by British newspaper The Guardian (as no official nationwide database exists) and a numerical system indicating the strength of a state’s firearms laws.  Taking into account laws such as those instituting stronger background checks, carrying firearms in public, and addressing gun trafficking, the study ranked states based on the strongest firearms laws (the highest being California with a score of 31) to the weakest (Arkansas, Idaho, and Kansas with 4).  “[E]ach 1-point increase in firearm legislative strength was associated with a 4% reduction in mortality.” States with the strongest firearm laws had rates of fatal police shootings more than 50% lower than in states with the weakest firearm legislation.  This association remained even after controlling for age, education, violent crime rate, and household gun ownership rate.