State Firearm Laws and Interstate Transfer of Guns in the USA, 2006–2016

  • Tessa Collins
  • Rachael Greenberg
  • Michael Siegel
  • Ziming Xuan
  • Emily F. Rothman
  • Shea W. Cronin
  • David Hemenway
Article

Abstract

In a cross-sectional, panel study, we examined the relationship between state firearm laws and the extent of interstate transfer of guns, as measured by the percentage of crime guns recovered in a state and traced to an in-state source (as opposed to guns recovered in a state and traced to an out-of-state source). We used 2006–2016 data on state firearm laws obtained from a search of selected state statutes and 2006–2016 crime gun trace data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. We examined the relationship between state firearm laws and interstate transfer of guns using annual data from all 50 states during the period 2006–2016 and employing a two-way fixed effects model. The primary outcome variable was the percentage of crime guns recovered in a state that could be traced to an original point of purchase within that state as opposed to another state. The main exposure variables were eight specific state firearm laws pertaining to dealer licensing, sales restrictions, background checks, registration, prohibitors for firearm purchase, and straw purchase of guns. Four laws were independently associated with a significantly lower percentage of in-state guns: a waiting period for handgun purchase, permits required for firearm purchase, prohibition of firearm possession by people convicted of a violent misdemeanor, and a requirement for relinquishment of firearms when a person becomes disqualified from owning them. States with a higher number of gun laws had a lower percentage of traced guns to in-state dealers, with each increase of one in the total number of laws associated with a decrease of 1.6 percentage points in the proportion of recovered guns that were traced to an in-state as opposed to an out-of-state source. Based on an examination of the movement patterns of guns across states, the overall observed pattern of gun flow was out of states with weak gun laws and into states with strong gun laws. These findings indicate that certain state firearm laws are associated with a lower percentage of recovered crime guns being traced to an in-state source, suggesting reduced access to guns in states with those laws.

Keywords

Firearms Laws Gun trafficking Violence 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This project was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Evidence for Action Program (grant no. 73337). The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Foundation.

References

  1. 1.
    Reiss AJ, Roth JA, eds. Understanding and Preventing Violence: Panel on the Understanding and Control of Violent Behavior. National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1993.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cook PJ, Braga AA. Comprehensive firearms tracing: strategic and investigative uses of new data on firearms markets. Arizona Law Rev. 2001;43(2):277–309. https://www.innovations.harvard.edu/comprehensive-firearms-tracing-strategic-and-investigative-uses-new-data-firearms-markets Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Data & Statistics: Firearms Trace Data. https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/data-statistics.
  4. 4.
    Weil DS, Knox RC. Effects of limiting handgun purchases on interstate transfer of firearms. JAMA. 1996;275(22):1759–61.  https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.1996.03530460063033.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Webster DW, Vernick JS, Hepburn LM. Relationship between licensing, registration, and other gun sales laws and the source state of crime guns. Inj Prev. 2001;7:184–9.  https://doi.org/10.1136/ip.7.3.184.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Webster DW, Vernick JS, Bulzacchelli MT. Effects of state-level firearm seller accountability policies on firearm interstate transfer. J Urban Health. 2009;86(4):525–37.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-009-9351-x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Trace the guns: the link between gun laws and interstate transfer of guns. New York, New York: Mayors Against Illegal Guns; 2010.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Knight B. State Gun Policy and Cross-State Externalities: Evidence from Crime Gun Tracing. Providence, Rhode Island: Department of Economics, Brown University; 2011.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Webster DW, Vernick JS, McGinty EE, Alcorn T. Preventing the diversion of guns to criminals through effective firearm sales laws. In: Webster DW, Vernick JS, editors. Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press; 2013. p. 109–21.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Office of the Attorney General, State of New York. Target on Interstate transfer: New York Crime Gun Analysis. Albany: Office of the Attorney General; 2016. https://targettrafficking.ag.ny.gov/.
  11. 11.
    Collins ME, Parker ST, Scott TL, Wellford CF. A comparative analysis of crime guns. RSF. 2017;3(5):96–127. https://www.rsfjournal.org/doi/full/10.7758/RSF.2017.3.5.05 Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Braga AA. Long-term trends in the sources of Boston crime guns. RSF. 2017;3(5):76–95. https://www.rsfjournal.org/doi/full/10.7758/RSF.2017.3.5.04 Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Crifasi CK, Buggs SAL, Choksy S, Webster DW. The initial impact of Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013 on the supply of crime handguns in Baltimore. RSF. 2017;3(5):128–40. https://www.rsfjournal.org/doi/full/10.7758/RSF.2017.3.5.06 Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Coates M, Pearson-Merkowitz S. Policy spillover and gun migration: the interstate dynamics of state gun control policies. Soc Sci Q. 2017;98(2):500–12.  https://doi.org/10.1111/ssqu.12422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Siegel M, Pahn M, Xuan Z, Ross CS, Galea S, Kalesan B, et al. Firearm-related laws in all 50 US states, 1991-2016. Am J Public Health. 2017;107(7):1122–9.  https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2017.303701.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Thomson Reuters Westlaw. ©2017 Thomson Reuters.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Azrael D, Cook PJ, Miller M. State and local prevalence of firearms ownership: measurement, structure, and trends. J Quant Criminol. 2004;20(1):43–62.  https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JOQC.0000016699.11995.c7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
  19. 19.
    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Annual Firearms Manufacturers and Export Reports, 2006–2016. https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/data-statistics.
  20. 20.
    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Lists of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs). 2014–2016: https://www.atf.gov/firearms/listing-federal-firearms-licensees-ffls-2016. 2006–2013: Provided on disk by ATF.
  21. 21.
    Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reports. Crime in the United States. Offenses Known to Law Enforcement. Property Crime. https://ucr.fbi.gov/ucr-publications.
  22. 22.
    U.S. Bureau of the Census. Decennial censuses: 1990, 2000, 2010.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    White H. A heteroskedasticity-consistent covariance matrix estimator and a direct test for heteroskedasticity. Econometrica. 1980;48(4):817–38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1912934 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Community Health SciencesBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Metropolitan CollegeBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Policy and ManagementHarvard T. H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA

Personalised recommendations