Large-scale study on gun-policy effects finds gaps in existing research, with a few exceptions

project includes a website visualization tool that allows visitors to explore a wide range of scenarios to see how different combinations of gun policies would affect outcomes nationally and in individual U.S. states, according to the two groups of experts.

“Both groups overwhelmingly favored policies they believed would reduce firearm homicides and suicides, but there is disagreement about which laws would have these effects,” Morral said. “Collecting more and stronger evidence about the true effects of laws is a necessary and promising step toward building greater consensus around effective gun policy.”

Looking forward, the RAND team recommends that the federal government increase funding for gun research to levels comparable to federal research investments in other significant causes of death and injury, such as automobile accidents. In addition, the focus of research should expand to include the effects that policies have on defensive gun use, gun ownership, hunting and recreation activities, jobs in the gun industry and officer-involved shootings.

“Issues beyond gun violence are often central considerations in gun policy debates, but we identified no qualifying research examining most of them. If we had better information on the effects of gun laws on some of these issues, we would be in a better position to develop fair and effective gun laws,” Morral said.

The United States has the highest gun ownership rate in the world, with estimates suggesting that Americans own as many as 300 million guns. Between 10 million and 20 million Americans actively participate in hunting or sport shooting annually, and the gun industry generates $16 billion in revenue and employs hundreds of thousands in gun manufacturing, distribution, sales and recreation.

At the same time, more than 36,000 people died of gunshot wounds in the U.S. in 2015, and Americans are 25 times more likely to die by gun homicide than residents of other wealthy countries.

About two-thirds of gunshot deaths in the U.S. are suicides, while mass shootings accounted for just 0.5 percent of all gun fatalities annually. RAND notes that despite wide acknowledgement that gun violence levels are too high, little consensus has been reached about what gun policies should be adopted widely.

RAND has funded the Gun Policy in America initiative—underway for two years—using income from its operations and unrestricted philanthropic gifts.