Do Gun Laws Reduce Gun Deaths?

“Do gun laws reduce gun deaths?”  In a word, yes.

In the past, there was little evidence on the connections between firearm laws and gun violence. But over the past several years, despite a ban on federally funded gun violence research, researchers have assembled and analyzed data to draw some significant conclusions.

In 2017, a study published in the Journal of the American Association, Firearm Laws and Firearm Homicides
A Systematic Review, found that the strength of firearm legislation in general, and laws related to strengthening background checks and permit-to-purchase in particular, are associated with decreased firearm homicide rates.

That same year, State Intimate Partner Violence–Related Firearm Laws and Intimate Partner Homicide Rates in the United States, 1991 to 2015 was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It found that state laws that prohibit persons subject to intimate partner violence-related restraining orders from possessing firearms and also require them to relinquish firearms in their possession were associated with lower intimate partner violence rates and significantly lower firearm-related intimate partner homicide rates. 

What Do We Know About the Association Between Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Injuries?, published by The Lancet in 2016, found that specific laws combining different types of firearm regulations are the best way to reduce deaths from gun violence. 

Earlier this year, the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery published Variability of child access prevention laws and pediatric firearm injuries. This study found that child access prevention (CAP) laws were associated with a significant reduction in all, self-inflicted , and unintentional pediatric firearm injuries.

These studies are only a small sample of the published research on this topic. For more, click here.

A simple look at the numbers further reinforces a relationship between stronger gun laws and reduced gun deaths. Below is a chart representing gun deaths rates by state and grouped by gun law grade.  In its grading system, The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives states with strong gun laws an ‘A’ while the weakest are given an ‘F.’  Both the gun death rates and the grades are from 2016, the most recent year gun death data is available from the CDC.


For 2016, the national average gun death rate was 13.0.

  • States with an A grade, those with the strongest gun laws, had an average gun death rate of 6.01.
  • States with a B grade had an average gun death rate of 8.88.
  • States with a C grade had an average gun death rate of 11.21
  • States with a D grade had an average gun death rate of 11.97

But those states with a F grade, states with lax to very lax gun laws, had an average gun death rate of 16.26.

Tennessee’s gun death rate is consistently higher than the national average.

Tennessee lawmakers have been systematically loosening the state’s already lax firearm laws, and expanding where guns can be carried. For example, against the wishes of law enforcement, city councils, mayors, and educators, laws were passed allowing guns to be stored in cars, even on private property (2013); allowing guns in all public parks, even those used by public schools (2015), and allowing guns on all public transportation, including public buses used by middle and high school students (2017) . During that same period, efforts to strengthen firearm laws, including “red flag laws”, expanding background checks to all gun sales, and holding adults responsible for leaving loaded guns accessible to young children, failed.

Below are charts representing Tennessee gun death numbers in four key categories: all intents, homicide only, suicide only, and unintentional shootings only. All show an increase over the last two years for which there is data. The data is from the CDC.

The gun lobby asserts that loosening gun laws reduces gun violence and makes communities safer, while the bulk of the peer-reviewed research comes to the opposite conclusion: stronger gun laws reduce gun violence and save lives.