Firearms and Homicide -- A State-Level Analysis

Rick Ruddell, California State University, Chico

This study examines the relationships between the numbers of firearms in circulation, firearms regulations, and state homicide rates. While national-level studies generally have found a non-significant association between the number of firearms and homicides, this research reveals that net of other factors, there were three consistent sources of state murder rates and firearms homicides in 2000: economic deprivation, firearms density, and less stringent state background checks on firearms purchases. Examination of the conditioning effects of firearms density on urban populations revealed that murder rates were highest in states with high levels of urbanization and firearms density. While the significance of these findings may be tempered by the fact that proxy measures for firearms density -- the firearms suicide rate, and stole firearems rate -- were estimated, two broad criminal justice policy implications are discussed: First, developing law enforcement strategies that target reductions in the number of illegally carried or owned firearms in urban areas. Second, stricter background checks, rather than stringent state-firearms regulations, might be a more effective method of reducing state murder rates.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006