Report: Murder Rates Remain Same in Tough Gun Law States

ByABC News
August 1, 2000, 4:06 PM

C H I C A G O, Aug. 1 -- A new study finds that murder and suicide ratesdid not drop any faster in states that had to toughen their laws tocomply with the 1994 Brady Act to regulate handguns.

The study also reports, however, that fewer people 55 and olderused guns to kill themselves after the act took effect.

The findings provoked strong words on both sides of thegun-control debate; they were also questioned in an editorial thataccompanied the study in Wednesdays Journal of the AmericanMedical Association. The AMA supported the Brady Act.

The National Rifle Association claimed the research supports thenotion that gun regulations like the Brady Act have no effect oncrime. Advocates of stricter gun laws said the study is not anappropriate measure of the success or failure of the Brady Act.

The findings follow research presented last week by the Centerto Prevent Handgun Violence, which estimates that 9,368 lives weresaved between 1994 and 1998 because guns were less available tocriminals.

Surprised by FindingsThe head of the center, Sarah Brady, is married to James Brady,for whom the act is named. Brady was the press secretary woundedand paralyzed in the 1981 assassination attempt on PresidentReagan.

As implemented in 1994, the Brady Act required licensed dealersto perform background checks and observe a five-day waiting periodbefore selling handguns. In 1998, instant background checksreplaced the waiting period requirement.

Eighteen states already met the Brady requirements in 1994.

The lead authors of the study, Georgetown University policyanalyst Jens Ludwig and Philip Cook of Duke University, examinednational statistics from 1985 through 1997 to compare the Bradylaws impact on crime in the 32 states that had to toughen theirlaws.

The authors noted that homicide and suicide rates had alreadybegun to decline nationwide before 1994, but they assumed thoserates would fall faster in treatment states those that had toadopt new laws to comply.