Gun legislation is a controversial topic, as it can be used both as defensive and offensive weapons and, in addition, facilitate committing suicide. On the one hand, firearms may be used for self-defense, thus increasing households’ safety. On the other hand, however, they are widely used as offensive weapons and for suicides. Thus, studies are necessary to reveal how firearm-regulating laws influence homicide and suicide rates among various social groups. Two studies are analyzed there: the first explores casualties among the US population in general, while the second focuses on the children and teen population, exploring the efficiency of child access prevention (CAP) laws. Each study will be analyzed to find similarities and differences in their settings, models, and results.
First Article: Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States by Fleegler et al.
The first article explores the general US population and aims to find the relation between the number of firearm-related laws and firearm-related casualties. In addition, it explores other studies and compares their results with those obtained during the analysis (Fleegler et al. 736). Most of them agree that the more guns are available, the higher rates of homicides and suicides are present. The model used in the research uses the legislative strength score based on the number of enacted gun-regulating laws in the state (Fleegler et al. 733). Instructions about each firearm law weight in the model were found in the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (Fleegler et al. 732). Researchers prepared two separate models: one where each law is counted as one legislative strength point and one where each point is weight according to the Brady Center’s instructions. In addition, other factors were used to adjust the model: age, race/ethnicity, sex, poverty, unemployment, college education, population density, and rates of non-firearm suicides and homicides (Fleegler et al. 732). Study results show that strict gun control correlates, in general, with lower homicide and suicide rates.
However, there is an important addition to the study results: the article emphasizes that there are outliers in their study and that factors other than those laws greatly impact casualty rates. At first, traditions and general attitudes toward firearms are different in each state and are not studied in the current article. The notable outlier is South Dakota, which “has weak gun control laws and low rates of firearm fatality,” and, thus, there are factors other than laws that limit gun-related violence in the state (Fleegler et al. 736). Fleegler’s article emphasizes that additional studies are necessary to elucidate those factors and study their relations with gun-related fatality rates.
Second Article: Firearm Legislation Stringency and Firearm-Related Fatalities among Children in the US by Madhavan et al.
The second article focuses on children, unlike the first one, which is more general and explores the whole population. This study was conducted in 2019, six years after the first study, and contains a reference to it in the introduction (Madhavan et al. 150). It explores the efficiency of child access prevention (CAP) laws that limit access to firearms for young people. The model was constructed using CAP laws and Brady scores, similar to those used in the first article (Madhavan et al. 153). Factors that were used to adjust the model are poverty, unemployment, graduation rates, percent of urbanization, alcohol dependence, tobacco use, and marijuana use. Results show that “strict gun legislation and CAP laws are associated with fewer pediatric firearm fatalities and firearm suicides” but only slightly impact teen homicide rates (Madhavan et al. 150). Therefore, the necessity of gun-regulating laws to decrease suicide rates among teens is proven. In conclusion, the article states that other variables may influence growing teen suicide ranges, and the necessity of further studies is emphasized.
Differences and Similarities
Both articles have a similar research question: how do firearm-regulating laws number correlate with firearm-related fatalities in each state? The main difference in the studies’ settings is that the first explores the general population, while the second focuses only on children and teens aged 0 – 20. The articles have different population samples, and thus, it is no surprise that they may have dissimilar results. Another difference is that researchers use data from various time ranges: the first article’s data are from 2007-2010, while the second is from 2014-2015 (Fleegler et al. 732; Madhavan et al. 150). This difference, however, may be considered insignificant, as the firearm-related death rates are mostly stable (Fleegler et al. 733; Madhavan et al. 154). Therefore, while both studies explore similar questions, they do this under different conditions.
The only notable difference in both studies’ results is that in Fleegler’s study, there is a clear negative correlation between law number and firearm-related casualties. Meanwhile, in Madhavan’s one, the negative correlation is found only for suicide rates among teens and not for homicide rates. However, it correlates with the analysis in Fleegler’s study, showing that teens often use guns to commit suicide (Fleegler et al. 735). In that way, studies do not contradict each other, and their results are quite clear: gun-controlling laws are helpful in preventing casualties, especially suicides. In addition, both agree that additional studies that focus on various cultural and psychological factors in each state should be conducted.
The first article concludes that states with a higher number of firearm-related laws are generally safer and have fewer gun-related casualties. There are, however, several exceptions, clarifications, and additions. For example, there are states-outliers with low casualty rates and weak gun regulation, such as South Dakota (Fleegler et al. 736). Therefore, there are factors other than firearm-related laws that highly influence fatality rates, and they should be studied. The second one, which focuses on the young population, shows quite a different result: stricter firearm-related laws reduce the level of suicides among teens, but the influence on homicides is much lower. In the comment section of the article Fleegler, it is stated that firearms are used for suicides in almost half of all cases in the US, especially among teens, which agrees with Madhavan’s research (Fleegler et al. 737). To summarize the findings of the two articles, one can say that stricter gun regulation primarily decreases the level of suicides, while the level of homicide is decreased slighter.
Both articles conclude that firearm-regulating laws positively influence gun-related casualties, decreasing them. Fleegler’s article explores the situation in general, while Madhavan studies CAP laws and child gun-related casualty rates. The first study’s results show that firearm-regulating laws correlate negatively with firearm-related fatalities, both homicides and suicides. It emphasizes that important outliers indicate factors other than laws, such as traditions, that may influence fatality rates and that those factors should be studied further. The second study shows that CAP laws are especially efficient in decreasing suicide rates among children, as teens with suicidal tendencies often try to use guns to commit suicide. In that way, both studies agree that gun-regulating laws are helpful in decreasing firearm-related violence and self-harm and that further studies are necessary to explore more factors that influence those issues.
Fleegler, Eric W., et al. “Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States.” JAMA Internal Medicine, vol. 173, no. 9, 2013, p. 732.
Madhavan, Sriraman, et al. “Firearm Legislation Stringency and Firearm-Related Fatalities among Children in the US.” Journal of the American College of Surgeons, vol. 229, no. 2, 2019, pp. 150–57.