Passing the hat for gun research

Earlier this month Mike Oliver reported on a study on the relationship between gun background checks and firearm deaths.

The researchers found that states with specific checks for restraining orders, mental illness, fugitive status and misdemeanors – items which would be considered in a higher level of background checking – are associated with a 7 percent reduction in homicides and a 2 percent reduction in suicides. […]

[T]hey found that the more comprehensive the background check was and the longer the states had been doing those comprehensive checks, the fewer homicides and suicides. [The] researchers check[ed] to see if there might be an upward tick in other type of homicides, such as people killed with knives, but that was not the case. […]

Homicides are 13 percent lower in states that have checks for restraining orders and 21 percent lower when fugitive status is checked.

The study is by Sen and Panjamapirom and is ungated. It includes an appropriate caution.

The findings of this study tentatively suggest that, by and large, more comprehensive background checks at the state level prior to firearm purchases may reduce firearm deaths. However, we strongly emphasize that these results are preliminary, and that more research is needed to establish whether these results are causal.

Where will the funding for that additional research come from? Federal funding for gun-related research has been frozen for years. So, Sen is trying something innovative. She’s “crowdfunding” it on It’s like Kickstarter, but for research. Until the law changes, this may be the only way to fund academic gun research. If the law changes another way, this may be how a lot more researchers attempt to fund their work. Of course, that all but guarantees a lot fewer researchers. So, I find Sen’s approach simultaneously an interesting response to the current dearth of funding for gun research and a frightening glimpse of a potential, bleak future.


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