10 Big Questions in the U.S. Gun Control Debate


Do States With Strict Gun Control Laws Have Less Gun Violence?

police weapons
Some of the 125 weapons confiscated during what the federal authorities say was the largest gang takedown in U. S. history. Scores of alleged gang members and associates were arrested on federal racketeering and drug-trafficking charges in 2009. David McNew/Getty Images

Critics of gun control often point to places such as the District of Columbia, which has a high rate of gun crimes despite strict gun control laws [source: Liptak]. But social scientist Richard Florida, who has analyzed crime and demographic data, has found a strong correlation between lower firearm deaths and tighter gun restrictions, such as bans on assault weapons and requirements for trigger locks and safe storage of guns. He says that gun violence is less likely to occur in states that have gun control laws. Interestingly, he found no correlation between states' unemployment rates or drug use and gun violence, but he did find that states with high poverty, low numbers of college grads and high numbers of working-class jobs also had more gun violence [source: Florida].

Gun control advocates say that states' efforts at gun control are undermined, to a degree, by lax laws in neighboring states. Everytown For Gun Safety, an organization lobbying for stricter gun legislation, points out that 27.2 percent of guns purchased in Virginia (a state with lax gun control laws) are recovered after being used in a crime within two years of the original sale, which is almost five points higher than the national average, and according to the mayors' group, a strong indication of gun trafficking to criminals [source: Trace the Guns]. A 2009 study by Johns Hopkins University researchers found that cities in states with little regulation of gun dealers had guns passing into criminals' hands at two to four times the rate of cities in states with strict laws [source: ScienceDaily].