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Do States With Stricter Gun Control Laws Have Lower Incidents of Gun Violence?

State Gun Laws Chart

The issue of gun control laws as a solution to preventing more violence by guns is a highly-debated issue that prompts many personal views as well as political. Gun control laws focus on legislation requiring national background checks on all handgun sales. The big question is, are gun control laws actually reducing violence by guns?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. gun-related homicides dropped 39 percent from 18,253 during 1993, to 11,101 in 2011, and non-fatal gun crimes decreased 69 percent. Yet last month a record 2.2 million background checks were performed, an increase of 58.6 percent over the same period in 2011. Background checks are a strong indicator of gun sales; in addition, many gun dealers are stating that they have never seen such demand for guns.

Why an increase in gun sales?

One proposed reason for increased gun sales has been suggested that more honest citizens are purchasing guns legally for protection, abiding by carry-and-conceal laws. It is a fact that gun purchases soared following the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, on December 14. The National Shooting Sports Foundation also reports that in 2009 increases in gun sales to women for protection increased 83 percent. This might explain why the statistics show that gun sales are up and gun-related homicides down, overall.

But the truth is: States vary widely in consistency in the relationship of gun control laws and decreases in gun violence.

The top ten states with the strictest gun control laws includes, in order, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Hawaii, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California.  It was only in January that New York approved the strictest gun-control measures in the country. Prior to that, New York was in the top 10 in firearm homicide rates in 2011, according to the FBI. Chicago's homicide rate jumped 15 percent in 2012; 87 percent were committed by guns. The FBI also ranked Maryland as sixth-highest in homicides involving guns and second-highest in robberies with guns in 2011.

To many who have firmly believed that stricter gun control law should equate to less gun violence, these statistics may not make any sense. Looking beyond the statistics may help. For example, 40 percent of prisoners in 2004 incarcerated for gun crimes purchased their guns illegally, 34 percent obtained their guns from family or friends, and only 10 percent purchased their gun from a shop, according to the Department of Justice. Gun control laws did not prevent these criminals from committing crimes with guns.

So what's the solution?

There is no easy solution for preventing violence by guns. It's as complicated as there are people living in cities across the nation. One thing is for certain, however, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. This is something that President Obama is most assuredly aware of as he continues to deal with one of the country's most sensitive issues.

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