Firearm Homicide Incidence, Within-state Firearm Laws, and Interstate Firearm Laws in US Counties

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Firearm homicides occur less frequently in US states with more firearm control laws. However, firearms are easily transported across state lines, and laws in one location may affect firearm violence in another. This study examined associations between within-state firearm laws and firearm homicide while accounting for interference from laws in other nearby states.

Methods: The units of analysis were 3,107 counties in the 48 contiguous US states, arrayed in 15 yearly panels for 2000-2014 (n = 46,605). The dependent measure was firearm homicides accessed from CDC Compressed Mortality Data. The main independent measures were counts of firearm laws and the proportion of laws within categories (e.g., background checks, child access prevention laws). We calculated these measures for interstate laws using a geographic gravity function between county centroids. Bayesian conditional autoregressive Poisson models related within-state firearm laws and interstate firearm laws to firearm homicides.

Results: There were 172,726 firearm homicides in the included counties over the 15 years. States had between 3 and 100 firearm laws. Within-state firearm laws (IRR [Incidence rate ratio] = 0.995, 95%CI: 0.992, 0.997) and interstate firearm laws (IRR = 0.993, 95%CI: 0.990, 0.996) were independently associated with fewer firearm homicides, and associations for within-state laws were strongest where interstate laws were weakest.

Conclusions: Additional firearm laws are associated with fewer firearm homicides both within the states where the laws are enacted and elsewhere in the US. Interference from interstate firearm laws may bias associations for studies of within-state laws and firearm homicide.