Let them take arms….

Gun regulation comes under close scrutiny whenever a mass shooting takes place on U.S. soil, especially in an election year. So what’s the current scope of this hot-button issue?

According to the NRA, 8 states in the U.S. have restricted right-to-carry laws, where each state has complete discretion over issuing or denying carry permits. 7 states allow citizens to conceal-carry without any permit. The rest* fall in-between, allowing for a conceal carry permit upon completion of certain requirements. (*The exceptions being Connecticut, which prohibits carry outside homes or businesses, and Puerto Rico, where local government retains some, but not total, discretion over granting permits to all law-abiding persons)

Many college campuses prohibit firearms. Recently, the Georgia Senate passed a bill that would make it legal (for those with appropriate permits) to conceal carry on campuses, except at athletic events, in dorms, and in Greek life houses. The bill (HB 859) would make Georgia the 9th state to allow college carry. The next could very well be Missouri, which, at the time of this writing, was hearing arguments in the House Emerging Issues Committee for two bills which would expand concealed carry privileges on campus. Many Missourians have expressed concern about this bill as the next in a long line of laws loosening restrictions on gun ownership, specifically because Missouri gun related deaths have increased over the past 10 years – including accidental deaths.

According to Ziming Xuan, assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health, “gun-related research is limited in part because there is virtually no funding from the federal government to advance our understanding about the nature and mechanism of gun violence or to identify and evaluate effective prevention strategies.” Still, there are existing studies which allow us to reflect legislation and patterns.

John Donohue, who has been researching gun violence in the U.S. for 25 years, explains that one study shows in only .8% of nonfatal violence crimes (such as home burglary) did victims choose to defend themselves with a gun, even “in a country with 300 million guns in civilian hands.” He cites another showing that a home invader is “twice as likely to obtain the victim’s gun than to have the victim use a firearm in self-defense.”

Several studies have shown that risk of suicide is higher in homes with guns, whereas those with suicidal inclinations are less likely to commit the act if no gun is available. There is also a higher rate of gun suicide (but usually a lower rate of gun homicide) in rural areas of the country, according to U.S. News. This may factor into many politicians advocating for mental health services during gun-control conversations, although there are increasingly more voices in the social and psychological sciences reminding us that the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime.

collection of tables compiled by The Atlantic shows that the average of gun-related deaths is higher in states with “Stand Your Ground” laws, fewer background checks, and easily obtained concealed carry laws. However, some argue that certain gun laws actually increase death tolls. According to a study published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, “laws that restrict firearm access to children, including age restrictions, were shown to be ineffective” and “laws that appeared associated with higher gun deaths included limiting the number of guns people can buy, a three-day limit for a background-checks extension, locks on firearms and allowing police to inspect stores.”

In Washington state, suicide accounts for nearly 80% of firearm deaths. Hoping to cut down those numbers, the NRA has partnered with University of Washington professor Jenn Stuber to create Washington’s Suicide Awareness and Prevention Education for Safer Homes Act. The legislated “passed both houses with bi-partisan support” and would go into effect next year, if it passes budget negotiations. Some states, like Oklahoma, have introduced bills to remove restrictions on gun usage- such as HB 3098, which “allows any person to lawfully carry a firearm in this state when carried in a holster… and the person is twenty-one years of age or older” – even if you have a record of domestic abuse.

No major gun-control measures have been passed by Congress since the 1990’s, but it continues to be a hotly debated subject in politics. In January of 2016 President Barack Obama used executive orders to introduce new background check laws.

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