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What Research Shows Works, and Doesn't, With Gun Control

Steve Helber
AP Photo



This week lawmakers gaveled in, and gaveled out, of a reconvened special session. It was an example of how Republican leaders, since losing the majority in November’s elections, have abandoned efforts to pass legislation addressing gun violence.

Republicans had promised a deliberative and thoughtful approach to the problem, beginning this summer with hours of testimony from experts heard by the State Crime Commission. But a long anticipated report from the Commission landed with a thud last week, three pages and no recommendations. 

“The overall findings from the research were often insufficient, mixed, contradictory, or based on limited methodology,” read the Commission’s report. 

That surprised Boston University researcher Claire Boine. She was one of the experts who shared her research with the group.

“I would say it’s a non report, rather than a report, to be honest,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday. “They just dismissed the evidence all together without really justifying it.” 

Boine’s research, which was presented to the group of lawmakers, shows there are specific gun control measures that demonstrably lower firearm homicides. They include instituting universal background checks, banning people with a violent misdemeanor on their record from purchasing a gun, and giving law enforcement discretion in granting concealed carry permits.

“That can matter because in some cases people are known to the police, although no one has pressed charges against them,” Boine said, citing domestic abuse as an example.

Her research shows that passing all three laws could result in a 34-percent reduction in murder rates. 

But only one of those laws is on Governor Northam’s gun control legislative wish list - universal background checks. 

Instead his list includes a ban on assault rifles and a one handgun-a-month policy. 

According to Boine’s research, those regulations aren’t effective in reducing violence, partially because they don’t narrowly target possible perpetrators of violence. 

“I fear that it might alienate a lot of gun owners who have nothing to do with crime, and I think it’s really important on this issue to work all together,” Boines says.


This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.