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Does Gun Control Reduce Violent Crime? The Data Are Mostly Lacking

December 21, 2012 07:54:07 am

There is no shortage of opinions on whether gun-control laws reduce violent crime. What is lacking are data, says the Wall Street Journal. As lawmakers prepare to take up the contested issue after the Newtown school massacre, they will find that all data on guns are surprisingly scarce. Federal data on gun ownership have dwindled and public funding for gun research has all but dried up. Private foundations, with few exceptions, have left the field. Underreported crime figures and inconsistent enforcement of gun laws frustrate analysis. Some researchers say they have found moderate evidence that certain interventions help to cut violent crime, though they don't agree on which ones. Others say there is no evidence of that at all.

The National Research Council, part of the congressionally chartered National Academies, analyzed research on gun laws and gun violence and found no credible evidence that laws permitting residents to carry guns had decreased or increased violent crime, or that gun limits keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. "The sad truth is that in the United States, the quality of data on crime is pathetic," said Akiva Liberman of the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center. Researchers say the Centers for Disease Control hasn't funded primary research in gun control since the mid-1990s, in part because of pressure from the National Rifle Association. Congress has barred the agency from funding research that promotes a position on gun control, and the CDC has limited its efforts in the area to compiling data on firearm injuries, rather than studying the effect of gun-control laws.

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