With recent serious mass shootings, such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Aurora, Colorado movie theater, and the Orlando Nightclub, debates over gun control continue to be a major topic of discussion. Murder rates in the United States have declined since it peaked in 1980 at 10.2 murders per 1,000 people down to 4.9 in 2014, but the United states still has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world as shown in this graph from CNN.
These large mass shootings have brought an emotional backlash as people ponder how these tragedies continue to happen. I think everyone can agree that less shootings and crime is desired regardless of your political beliefs, however, the best way to achieve outcome may not be as obvious as it seems. The most debated and discussed approach to decreasing gun violence are various gun control laws. This appears like a direct and sensible way to solve the problem, right? Less guns, less violence. Unfortunately, it may not be this simple. It appears that more important than gun control laws, especially in the United States, is the socioeconomic status of the areas where the gun violence takes place. Economists Ik-Whan G. Kwon, Bradley Scott, Scott R. Safranski, and Muen Bae published an article in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology that found that regardless of whether a state had gun control laws in 1990 poverty, demographics and alcohol abuse proved to be more predictive of gun violence in the states. The presence of gun control laws was statistically insignificant in predicting gun violence in their model, shown in the table below. In a study done on the effectiveness of Canadian gun control laws, similar results were found. Gun control laws were statistically insignificant in predicting violent crimes.
Albeit this may be a product of ineffectiveness of gun control laws before the 2000s in both the United States and Canada or due to omitted variables from the model, but I believe people are missing the point. Gun control laws will not solve the problem of gun violence by itself. These studies show there is a quality of life component to gun violence. There must be some combination of a focus on increasing social welfare in a country or region long term alongside gun control laws may help lead us closer to the answer we are looking for on the issue of gun violence.