Policy Factsheet

Firearms Policies

Reasons for Policy

  • In 2007, 31,224 persons died from firearm injuries in the United States.1
  • In the U.S., firearm injuries account for over 17% of all injury deaths.1
  • In the U.S., the cost of firearm related violence is approximately $100 billion per year.2
  • Among 26 high-income nations, U.S. firearm death rates exceeded those of all other nations.2

Community Groups

  • Local Government
  • State Government

Policy Components

  • Comprehensive firearm laws and regulations (national laws)
  • Regulation of specific well-defined aspects of acquisition and use within a jurisdiction (local, state, national)
  • Requirement of an individual to obtain a license or certification to purchase or possess a firearm
  • Requirement of a specified delay before acquisition of a firearm
  • Child access prevention laws (CAP)
  • Prohibition of certain categories of firearms or ammunition that are particularly dangerous or not well suited for hunting or self-defense
  • Enhanced enforcement of gun laws

Desired Outcomes

  • Reduction of violent crimes (homicide, aggravated assault, robbery and rape)
  • Reduction of unintentional firearm related injury
  • Reduction in suicide
  • Prevention of firearm related injury and death

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 3: Insufficient Evidence Available.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

  • Evidence is insufficient to determine whether the degree of firearms regulation is associated with decreased violence.2
  • Further research is needed to determine the relationship between specific types and degree of firearm regulation and the rates of violence within a given jurisdiction.2
  • Conclusions that evidence for the effectiveness of a firearms law is insufficient does not imply the law has no effect, rather, what effect, if any, the law has on an outcome is not yet known.2


1 Xu, J, Kochanek KD, Murphy, SL, Tejada-Vera, B (2010). Deaths: Final Data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports web release, National Center for Health Statistics, 58(19), retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/deaths.htm.

2 Hahn RA, et al. (2005). Firearms Laws and the Reduction of Violence: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28(2S1), 40-71.

3 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.