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An evaluation of state firearm regulations and homicide and suicide death rates
  1. M Rosengart1,
  2. P Cummings2,4,
  3. A Nathens2,3,
  4. P Heagerty5,
  5. R Maier3,
  6. F Rivara2,4,6
  1. 1University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  2. 2Harborview Injury and Prevention Research Center, Seattle, WA, USA
  3. 3Department of Surgery, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, WA, USA
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  5. 5Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  6. 6Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M R Rosengart
 University of Pittsburgh, F1266.1, 200 Lothrop Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA;


Objective: To determine if any of five different state gun laws were associated with firearm mortality: (1) “shall issue” laws permitting an individual to carry a concealed weapon unless restricted by another statute; (2) a minimum age of 21 years for handgun purchase; (3) a minimum age of 21 years for private handgun possession; (4) one gun a month laws which restrict handgun purchase frequency; and (5) junk gun laws which ban the sale of certain cheaply constructed handguns.

Design: A cross sectional time series study of firearm mortality from 1979 to 1998.

Setting: All 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Subjects: All residents of the United States.

Main outcome measures: Firearm homicides, all homicides, firearm suicides, and all suicides.

Results: When a “shall issue” law was present, the rate of firearm homicides was greater, RR 1.11 (95% confidence interval 0.99 to 1.24), than when the law was not present, as was the rate of all homicides, RR 1.08 (95% CI 0.98 to 1.17), although this was not statistically significant. No law was associated with a statistically significant decrease in the rates of firearm homicides or total homicides. No law was associated with a statistically significant change in firearm suicide rates.

Conclusion: A “shall issue” law that eliminates most restrictions on carrying a concealed weapon may be associated with increased firearm homicide rates. No law was associated with a statistically significant reduction in firearm homicide or suicide rates.

  • ICD-9, International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision
  • firearms
  • homicide
  • legislation
  • suicide

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  • Competing interests: the authors declare no competing interests.