Despite the National Rifle Association’s opposite claims, Boston University professor Michael Siegel performed a study that found there may be a link between gun ownership and gun-related homicides, according to a Friday press release.
Siegel said he decided to perform the study in the wake of the Newtown, C.T. shootings last December.
“After the Newtown tragedy, there was a lot of debate over what the best response is to try to prevent things like that from happening,” he said. “… On one side of the debate was groups like the NRA which basically wanted to arm teachers and arm guards in public schools … On the other side are advocates who basically want these zero-gun tolerance policies where nobody can bring a gun into a school.”
Siegel and his team of researchers developed a database of 30 years of state-to-state data to analyze. He examined the relationship between gun ownership and firearm homicide rates in states, making sure to consider certain factors including but not limited to urbanization, unemployment, income, age, gender and race.
Due to limited information on gun ownership in various states, Siegel and his team resorted to using a well-determined “proxy” to measure gun ownership in each state where data was not readily available.
“A proxy means is there some way you can estimate what the likely percentage of gun ownership without actually having the data,” he said. “The proxy that we used was a very well-established proxy, which is the percentage of suicides committed with a firearm … If they have one, they’ll use one. If they don’t, they won’t, in general. So, there is this very high correlation between the percentage of suicides done with firearms and the actual level of gun ownership in a state at the state level.”
The study’s findings predicted that each 1 percentage point increase in each state’s gun ownership will increase a state’s gun-related deaths by .9 percent, Siegel said. For each single standard deviation increase in gun ownership, this translates to a 12.9 percent increase in each state’s gun homicide rate.
According to the release, the mean estimated percentage of gun ownership in the U.S. ranged from Hawaii’s, at 25.8 percent, to Mississippi’s, at 76.8 percent. The homicide rate, adjusted for age, ranged from .9 per 100,000 population in New Hampshire to 10.8 per 100,000 in Louisiana over the course of 30 years. All 50 states averaged at a rate of 4 per 100,000.
College of Arts and Sciences senior Hilary Lyons said the study might not account for guns obtained illegally, which may have drastically changed the findings.
“Where there is a high number of guns — say in a city — people who want guns in that kind of setting don’t necessarily get them legally in ways that people can see and track,” Lyons said.
CAS sophomore Donovan Dowers said he does not think gun ownership is to blame for violent crimes happening across the U.S., but does believe there should be more rules placed on gun ownership.
“The right to have a firearm is definitely something that everyone should have to be able to protect himself or herself if the situation calls for it,” Dowers said. “Gun licenses shouldn’t be given out the way they are at the moment. I think there should be a lot stronger rules for who can own a gun, but I don’t think that gun rights should be taken away.”
Lipi Thaker, a School of Management junior, said that gun ownership in general may be increasing due to the fact that people feel the need to protect themselves in this day and age.
“It’s a rising issue in the U.S. … The option of having a gun is an easier solution, but has a worse result,” Thaker said. “With the rise in the amount of people who have guns, many people feel the need to get one as well to protect themselves.”
Rachel Riley contributed to the reporting of this article.