Firearm Legislation and Fatal Police Shootings in the United States

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Abstract

Objectives

To examine whether stricter firearm legislation is associated with rates of fatal police shootings.

Methods

We used a cross-sectional, state-level design to evaluate the effect of state-level firearm legislation on rates of fatal police shootings from January 1, 2015, through October 31, 2016. We measured state-level variation in firearm laws with legislative scorecards from the Brady Center, and for fatal police shootings we used The Counted, an online database maintained by The Guardian.

Results

State-level firearm legislation was significantly associated with lower rates of fatal police shootings (incidence rate ratio = 0.961; 95% confidence interval = 0.939, 0.984). When we controlled for sociodemographic factors, states in the top quartile of legislative strength had a 51% lower incidence rate than did states in the lowest quartile. Laws aimed at strengthening background checks, promoting safe storage, and reducing gun trafficking were associated with fewer fatal police shootings.

Conclusions

Legislative restrictions on firearms are associated with reductions in fatal police shootings.

Public Health Implications

Although further research is necessary to determine causality and potential mechanisms, firearm legislation is a potential policy solution for reducing fatal police shootings in the United States.

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