Gun laws make people safer. The logic seems sound—if there are fewer guns or it’s difficult to access them, less people will die from them. But in a country obsessed with gun culture and ownership, points like these are difficult to get across. And it makes simple, easy-to-understand firearm research all the more important, as a study published in Pediatrics this month showed.
Researchers from George Washington University and the Children’s National Health System found that states with more restrictive gun control laws—namely universal background checks—had 35 percent fewer child firearm deaths than states with more lenient ones. The methodology is robust, exploring fatal injury data from the Centers for Disease Control and gun legislation grades from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. But the facts and findings are both simple and harrowing: firearms are the second-lead cause of pediatric death in the U.S. More than 10 children die from firearms every day. Another 50 are injured.
With pro-gun organizations like the NRA spending thousands upon thousands of dollars to prevent gun research, stats and data are hard to come by. There’s no central government storehouse of information. In fact, our government makes information scarce. The Dickey Amendment, passed by Congress in the 1990s, prevents federal tax dollars from funding firearm research. We don’t know the exact extent of the problem and lack the necessary information to solve it. The recent Pediatrics study isn’t just a look into gun control in general—it provides insight into what specific laws might be helping to prevent firearm related deaths.
The good news for firearm research is how starkly Americans’ views on guns have changed since the Dickey Amendment’s passing. According to a 2018 Gallup Poll, 60 percent of Americans support stricter gun laws. Gun control activism is more visible than ever thanks to the Parkland shooting survivors and the activists they inspired. Meanwhile, the NRA, the organization that’s spearheaded the pro-gun lobby for decades, is in turmoil.
Unfortunately, pro-gun sentiment is baked into American culture. But better, more complete gun legislation was never going to happen in one fell swoop anyway. It’s going to take time, effort and energy. And it’s also going to take evidence, the kind so direct and distressing it can’t be ignored. The simpler the better.