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States with most restrictive gun-control laws have lower gun-related deaths, study finds

By Bob Egelko

San Francisco Chronicle

LAST UPDATED: 04:23 a.m. HST, Dec 27, 2012

Connecticut has more restrictions on gun ownership than most states, so gun-rights advocates argue the Dec. 14 schoolhouse massacre there illustrates the futility of gun control.

But a new study by a pro-gun control San Francisco organization reaches the opposite conclusion: States with the most restrictive laws, including Connecticut and California, have lower rates of gun-related deaths, while states with few limits on firearms have the highest rates.

In 2009 and 2010, the most recent years for which information is available, California had the nation’s strongest gun controls and the ninth-lowest rate of gun deaths, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which favors firearms regulation. Connecticut had the fourth-strongest gun laws and was sixth-lowest in gun deaths, while Hawaii ranked fifth in gun control and had the lowest death rate.

At the other end of the scale, the report found that Alaska, Louisiana and Montana — all graded F for gun control — had the highest rates of deaths caused by gunfire, more than double California’s rate. The law center graded all 50 states and gave an F, for weak regulation, to 24 of them.

In 2010, the report said, quoting the federal Centers for Disease Control, California had 7.88 gun deaths for each 100,000 residents, compared with rates of 3.31 in Hawaii and 20.28 in Alaska.

More research is needed on the links between specific weapons regulations and fatalities, but “the data supports the common-sense conclusion that gun laws are a significant factor in a state’s rate of gun deaths,” said the report.

Since the report’s release last month, The Chronicle has forwarded it for comment to four gun-rights organizations: the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Gun Owners of America and its state affiliate, Gun Owners of California. None replied to calls or e-mails.

Other recent studies have reached similar conclusions. A researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported in July that states requiring comprehensive background checks before gun purchases had lower death rates than those without such requirements.

But as long as the federal government leaves gun regulations largely up to each state, the effectiveness of any state’s laws is inherently limited, said Laura Cutiletta, an attorney at the law center that conducted the study.

California, for example, bans most semiautomatic rifles, including the Bushmaster .223 that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 students and six educators at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school this month. But the rifles are legal in neighboring Nevada, and can be taken easily — though illegally — to California.

The Bushmaster is also legal in Connecticut, a circumstance that Cutiletta said illustrates the modest level of gun regulation even in states ranked high in the law center’s survey.

While Connecticut is one of about 10 states with any restrictions on semiautomatic rifles, it prohibits them only if they have certain additional features, such as a pistol grip and a folding or collapsible stock.

The Bushmaster that Lanza reportedly used-was a version of the widely sold AR-15 rifle, and had been legally purchased by his mother, whom he killed before taking her guns and heading to the school.

A federal assault weapons law, in effect from 1994 to 2004, also banned semiautomatic weapons only if they had specific features. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sponsored that law after a gunman used assault weapons to kill eight people and then took his own life at 101 California St. in San Francisco.

Feinstein is proposing a more far-reaching national law in the wake of the Newtown bloodbath.

Although the federal law has been widely regarded as ineffectual, Cutiletta cited a 2004 study commissioned by President George W. Bush’s Justice Department that found assault weapon use in gun crimes dropped by 17 to 72 percent in six cities during the decade. On the other hand, use of large-caliber ammunition magazines increased through the late 1990s, probably because the ban did not apply to weapons acquired before 1994, the study said.

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Kuokoa wrote:
This states with most restrictive gun laws probably are the most socialist controlled states.
on December 26,2012 | 09:10AM
RichardCory wrote:
Good. Oh, by the way, the 1960's called. They want their Cold War back.
on December 26,2012 | 09:25AM
kainalu wrote:
I've posted about it before, and was called a liar. There's a DIRECT CORRELATION between gun-ownership and gun-violence. Those states with the most per-captia gun-owners, just so happen to have the highest rates of gun-violence. Duh. And fact: if a gun is used at all, it is exponentially more likely to be used against the gun-owner, or someone associated with the gun-owner like family, friends, neighbors, associates, etc., than it will be used in "self defense". Other than by law-enforcement, incidents of "self defense" shootings are so rare, they don't even register is some states - like Hawaii. You have to go back several decades to find a gun-owner in Hawaii that used his weapon is "self defense" - the Surf shop owner on Queens street. Let us not forget, the gun used at Sandy Hook first killed the gun-owner, and last killed her son.
on December 26,2012 | 11:33AM
copperwire9 wrote:
GOOD comment. Thanks.
on December 26,2012 | 12:21PM
OldDiver wrote:
Just wondering if this FACT will be reported on Fox News.
on December 26,2012 | 02:08PM
Bumby wrote:
What a gun holding citizen drives his car from one state to another? Is there a law that prohibits this? Bottom line one who has a firearm will use it for whatever. No firearm nothing to use and shoot with.
on December 26,2012 | 10:00PM
DABLACK wrote:
Awaiting the debate on Gun Control. Politically, it'll be stalled by some "crucial" language. Meanwhile, what do we do for protecting our loved ones ??
on December 26,2012 | 09:32AM
Slow wrote:
Are your loved ones being threatened? Oh. Didn't think so. But get a few loaded pistols just in case.
on December 26,2012 | 10:31AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Wonder if the parents in Newtown thought their loved ones were being threatened. Oh. Didn't think so. But I bet they wish the principle had the pistol you're talking about.
on December 26,2012 | 02:30PM
tiki886 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 27,2012 | 08:05AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Yup, got my AR-15. Now got to stock up on those 30-round magazines and load 'em. When we go over the fiscal cliff, there will be blood in the streets. Got to be on guard against those slobs collecting unemployment when the well dries up and they don't get their UI check. Boehner has got to get off his keester and move to get rid of the money eaters that he promised to get rid of - that stupid mortgage deduction, the child tax credit, the head of household deduction, medicaid, social security, and medicare. And those meals-on-wheels deadbeats!!! Geez!!! Those are the kinds of entitlements that are sucking up our tax dollars, that only help the middle class.. When it gets violent, we'll be able to put those leftist commie 47%'ers who want to make us 1%'ers pay through the nose, in their place. If we get enough of them to run, maybe we can hold a new election, cuz there will be fewer of them to go to the polls and we will be guarding the poll entrances with our AR-15's. And we will bring Mitt back!! No, we'll put Paul Ryan up as Fuehrer!!! Take the high ground! Tea Party, forever!. ... NOT!
on December 27,2012 | 03:28PM
eoe wrote:
In other news, water runs down hill, the moon is not made of cheese, and the earth is not flat.
on December 26,2012 | 09:33AM
johncdechon wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 26,2012 | 09:33AM
copperwire9 wrote:
And I wish that you would look up the stats themselves. You'll see they're correct, and that there is indeed a direct correlation (duh, as another comment said) between - hello! - gun availability and gun deaths. Honest to goodness, it really isn't rocket science.
on December 26,2012 | 12:24PM
savan68 wrote:
Did you look up the stats yourself? After getting rid of the guns, we can get rid of that pesky thing called freedom of speech. No more Fox news, no more oposing views. Without gun ownership, nothing would stop Fox news and talk radio from being shut down. Who would stop it.
on December 26,2012 | 10:47PM
JKertis wrote:
If you go to their web site and read the study, you'll see no correlation between restrictive laws and gun deaths. Nice try, media.
on December 26,2012 | 09:56AM
Slow wrote:
I can't understand why many people don't understand that more guns equals less shooting deaths. Right Kertis?
on December 26,2012 | 10:33AM
savan68 wrote:
Not just less shooting deaths, but less violent crime overall. Thats if you believe those guys at the FBI, but who cares about facts.
on December 26,2012 | 10:49PM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
What's the link between legal gun ownership and gun related deaths. On the other hand isn't this pro gun control group countering their own movement? More gun control equals more gun deaths (according to them). Then why would you want more gun control?
on December 26,2012 | 10:33AM
lynnh wrote:
Wow! Talk about miss-information! This story is flat out wrong, or an intentional lie. The states with some of the least restrictive gun control laws have the least gun crimes. Example: Washington State, which ranks in the top three with the least gun crimes, is a concealed carry permit state. It is documented fact that states with concealed carry permits have the lowest crime rates as well as the lowest gun crimes. Look it up! Come on SA, stop lying to the readers. .
on December 26,2012 | 10:33AM
Morimoto wrote:
The story isn't a lie, you just misread it. If you read the story again you'll see it states gun-related deaths, not crimes. Seeing how most gun-related deaths in this country are suidices, the numbers seem to make sense. I've read numerous studies about concealed carry and it's effect on crime and there really is no conclusion. There are studies that show states with CCP have lower crime rates and some that have higher crime rates. I'm all for the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms, but it looks like you're the one who's misinformed here.
on December 26,2012 | 11:26AM
lynnh wrote:
You need to check the "facts" that SA is posting, because you and SA are the misinformed. Fact: Chicago: One of the top gun control states has more gun related deaths "and" gun violence that any other state. Available information, through government sources, recognizes that close to 93% of the gun related deaths and also gun violence deaths in Chicago were by unregistered guns and illegally obtained guns. Also, most of the gun "crimes" committed were by persons who had prior convictions and or were not legally able to own a gun. So much for gun control. You sir are the misinformed.
on December 26,2012 | 11:34AM
Morimoto wrote:
Everything I said was true. You are wrong when you say this story is a lie as more restrictive gun laws generally correlate with lower gun deaths (not necessarily crime). I don't dispute your Chicago "facts", but one story doesn't make it a fact. I'll add Washington D.C. in the 1990's to being in a similar situation to Chicago (restrictive gun laws, high gun violence rates), but again a few cases doesn't make something a fact. There was a study I read a while ago (forgot which states) which studied crime before and after states relaxed their gun laws. Bottom line was that some states had an increase in crime, some had a decrease. YOu citing individual cases doesn't make something a "fact". The number one factor in the crime rate is economics. People with comfortable lives have less incentive to commit crimes and vice versa.
on December 26,2012 | 01:32PM
hawaiikone wrote:
You should omit Washington as an example, simply because it's one of many definitive examples of the failure of gun control. With a high gun crime rate already, their gun ban, prior to being overturned constitutionally, resulted in a tremendous surge of gun violence. Once repealed, the that figure quickly went down to pre ban levels again.
on December 26,2012 | 02:17PM
Morimoto wrote:
My main point is that there are many other more important factors to overall crime rates than gun control. The chief among them being economics, with drugs also playing a major role. Washington's crime rate went up in the 80s and 90s, along with much of the rest of the country. A large part of this increase was the crack cocaine epidemic. As authorities began to get a handle on the drug trade, crime went down across the country, including in Washington D.C. Gun control, or the lack thereof, had little to do with Washington's increase and then decrease of crime rates.
on December 26,2012 | 02:53PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Unfortunately, the statistics concerning only gun violence in D.C. paint a different picture, unrelated to the national crime rate. I do agree with the importance of looking at all the issues. For example, we have little hard evidence regarding the deterrence that concealed carry provides. In any case, gun ownership has to be taken far more seriously than ever before, with two major factors being increasingly emphasized, appropriate training and responsible possession.
on December 26,2012 | 03:35PM
savan68 wrote:
You mean to say that there are other factors in violent crime and that guns are just the tools not the cause? You mean violent crimes could be committed with something else if guns weren't avaliable? (BEIJING -- Officials say a man who went into a school in central China and stabbed 23 children last week was "psychologically affected" by doomsday predictions.)
on December 26,2012 | 11:07PM
savan68 wrote:
Facts make no difference, guns are dangerous because they are scary. Didn't you listen to the Senate hearing about the assault weapons ban? They were talking about those folding "Thingy" on the rifles. Hey, if you have to call something a "Thingy," you know it's dangerous. Let not forget those pistol grips, are supposed to make guns more accurate. Don't ask me why hunting rifles haven't come around to using pistol grips if they are supposed to make guns more accurate, but they are. The guy on CNN said so, not sure what qualified him to say it, but if someone on the news says it's true, then it must be true.
on December 26,2012 | 11:00PM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
Sorry. Misread the headline. Forget the last statement.
on December 26,2012 | 10:34AM
ichiban wrote:
THIS STUDY IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE!! I can figure this---States that have the most restrictive gun laws probably has less guns per ( 100k people ), their numbers. Thereby LESS GUN DEATHS. Did the study consider the total death toll and categorize the weapon used for each kill and take into account what percentage each weapon used to the death total? Hey. a state may have 10,000 deaths per 1000,000 population but only 1 death by a gun. But not to worry they got gun under control. PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE. Guns are conduits to be used. If a gun is left alone, nothing happens. Ban assault weapons, more thorough background check on buyers of guns, but not total ban on guns.
on December 26,2012 | 10:50AM
valta70 wrote:
This study probably cost about 500k to do something that's common sense. Next Study... you will get sunburn if you stay out in the sun longer than you should.
on December 26,2012 | 11:24AM
Grimbold wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 26,2012 | 11:25AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Which would lead to a ban on aspirin as a leading cause of suicide by overdosing.
on December 26,2012 | 02:20PM
Morimoto wrote:
It seems perfectly logical that more gun restrictions equals less gun-related deaths. However, most gun deaths in this country are suicides, not homicides. While numbers don't lie they can deceive. Additional information comparing states would be helpful such as 1) What is the TOTAL homicide rate for each state 2) Total suicide rate 3) Total crime rate. The reason for the total rates is that if the criminal can't get a hold of a gun, that won't stop them from committing their crime. For example, I'm pretty sure California's homicide rates was at or above the national average last time I checked.
on December 26,2012 | 11:33AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Agreed. Maybe we should be looking more at why people are killing themselves rather than how they're doing it.
on December 26,2012 | 03:40PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Moritomo, guess what Sandy Hook was a suicide, with 27 people in between.
on December 26,2012 | 03:44PM
saveparadise wrote:
Any survey can be manipulated to say what you want to support. If we should ban anything that causes deaths it should be alcohol. Who has not been touched by an alcohol related tragedy? Is this all a smoke screen for politicians?
on December 26,2012 | 01:00PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Most parents who's child committed suicide, later wished they never had a gun in the house.
on December 26,2012 | 03:46PM
johncdechon wrote:
Makaha Boss here (again)! Most parents SHOULD have locked them up from their kids, AND taught their kids ABOUT guns AS WELL! NOTHING wrong with a gun in the house...an UNarmed house if a burglar's looter's (during/after some disaster) dream. But really, if someone breaks into a no-guns house at night, what those people gonna do? Shout harsh words at the criminals? Giood luck!
on December 27,2012 | 08:34AM
How many times do I gotta say dis, it's not the gun that kills people, it's da people dat kill people. Now check dis out, dat guy called Christopher Deedy, a well trained occifer agent, who pulled a gun in a family restaurant, called McDonalds, in Waikiki. Da guy was drinking (Deedy). Deedy was the only armed person dat fired 3 rounds and one missing a customer. Deedy was suppose to be well trained and couldn't defend himself against a 23 year old unarmed local boy. Deedy was brave with a concealed weapon when he kicked the local boy in the chest. Deedy did not say he was an agent, but when he drew his weapon, the local boy just wanted to disarm him like any civilian. Deedy was a "PUNK", thinking he was 007. So what about dat. TINK PEOPLE TINK. By the way, what's happening to this case. Are they sweeping it unda' da carpet. Mmmmmm, he is a "white" boy. Now you wonder why Hawaiian's dislike white people.
on December 26,2012 | 05:06PM
ichiban wrote:
Agreed. But Deedy was not only a "white" boy, he was government. And we should ban motor vehicles cause it kills more people than guns. Irrational thinking like this and its back to the Dark Ages.
on December 26,2012 | 08:45PM
Dimbulb wrote:
Hawaii does have fewer deaths due to gun violence. That is true. Hawaii is also one of the most restrictive gun states. Although the law says you can get a concealed carry permit in Hawaii, it just doesn't happen. Another very restrictive state is Illinois. Illinois currently is the shooting capital of the United States. Although not a state, New York City which, by the way is very gun restrictive has much gun violence along with Washington DC. The key to this article written by the San Francisco Chronicle is that they can pick and choose the data that matches most with the theme of their article.
on December 27,2012 | 03:48AM
yhls wrote:
These so called "studies" can be used by both sides, so this story doesn't carry much weight. The NRA has its own studies that counter it. For those who favor more gun control and want to cite Hawaii as being an example of why it works. Hawaii has many, many gun owners and gun lovers and, I believe, somewhere around a million registered guns, which include thousands of assault rifless. The reason we have such low rates of gun violence has absolute nothing to do with tighter gun laws because people have lots of guns. But it has everything to do with our unique culture where many people know each other, are related, or feel a sense of responsibility and connectedness to the community. Yes, we have our share of crazy nuts. But we have many, many more people who feel that sense of community and responsibility. People who move here from other states or countries, move here because of that Aloha Spirit. Gun laws are only followed by people who obey laws and feel a sense of responsibility to their family, community and country. Criminals will always find a way to get guns. But people who suffer from mental illness, that's another subject altogether. And it needs to be addressed in this country.
on December 27,2012 | 05:24AM
TTPwr wrote:
If guns make people safer, then the United States should be the safest nation on earth.
on December 27,2012 | 07:54AM
hawaiikone wrote:
If you want safe, get in one. If you want freedom, defend it.
on December 27,2012 | 08:29AM
TTPwr wrote:
I defended it in Vietnam. I don't want to have to defend myself in the street from some looney who just shot his mother with her own assault rifle.
on December 27,2012 | 08:34AM
bender wrote:
Where is Kaali. Yesterday he proclaimed he had FBI figures that said just the opposite of this study.
on December 27,2012 | 05:28AM
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