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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Study Finds States With Most Gun Laws Have Fewest Gun Deaths But…

Figure 1. from the study: Firearm-related mortality rates, legislative strength scores and total firearm deaths in the United States, 2007 through 2010. (JAMA)

Figure 1. from the study: Firearm-related mortality rates, legislative strength scores and total firearm deaths in the United States, 2007 through 2010 (click to enlarge). (JAMA Internal Medicine)

Harvard researchers have found that states with the most gun laws also had the fewest firearm deaths.

The lead researcher of the study “Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United States” published in JAMA Internal Medicine is Dr. Eric Fleegler, an emergency room pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.

He told Here & Now’s Robin Young that while the study shows an association between gun deaths and gun laws, it does not prove that more gun laws are the reason for fewer gun deaths.

“In states that have the most [gun] laws, there is a 42 percent reduction in fatalities, compared to those states with the least number of laws,” Fleegler said. “You can’t necessarily say one absolutely led to the other … but you can say those things are related.”

The study underscores the need for better data, Fleegler said, to help us understand how gun deaths are distributed geographically, by age and other details, so we can act appropriately to curb violence.

“One of the major challenges that has existed over the past 15 years is that basically all avenues of federal funding – either the CDC or the NIH – have been cut off from studying firearm fatalities,” Fleegler said. “I’m a pediatric emergency medicine doctor. If there are ten children who die from a toy or some sort of injury, there is an incredible human cry that we make sure that we stop those types of deaths. Here on the other side you have 31,000 people who die every single year from firearms. That is a number of deaths on virtually an unprecedented level, and nothing is being done to understand this or reduce it.”

Guest:

  • Dr. Eric Fleegler, emergency room pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of a new study on guns.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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