Effects of Policies Designed to Keep Firearms from High-Risk Individuals

by Daniel W. Webster; Garen J. Wintemute

Jan 7, 2015
This article summarizes and critiques available evidence from studies published between 1999 and August 2014 on the effects of policies designed to keep firearms from high-risk individuals in the United States. Some prohibitions for high-risk individuals (e.g., those under domestic violence restraining orders, violent misdemeanants) and procedures for checking for more types of prohibiting conditions are associated with lower rates of violence. Certain laws intended to prevent prohibited persons from accessing firearms -- rigorous permit-to-purchase, comprehensive background checks, strong regulation and oversight of gun dealers, and requiring gun owners to promptly report lost or stolen firearms -- are negatively associated with the diversion of guns to criminals. Future research is needed to examine whether these laws curtail nonlethal gun violence and whether the effects of expanding prohibiting conditions for firearm possession are modified by the presence of policies to prevent diversion.
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