Washington – Connecticut’s decision in 1995 to make it harder to purchase a hand gun has sharply reduced gun-related homicides, a new Johns Hopkins University study shows.
Published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday, the study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research said the 1995 law resulted in as many as 40 percent fewer homicides by gun.
Daniel Webster, director of the center and an author of the report, said researchers compared Connecticut’s homicide rate for ten years against those in states that were similar to Connecticut’s before the state implemented new restriction on the sales of guns in 1995. Those states included Rhode Island, California and Maryland.
Webster said Connecticut’s actions “appear to reduce the availability of handguns to criminals and other people who are not legally permitted to buy guns.”
The 1995 state law requires all prospective handgun purchasers to apply for a permit in person with the local police regardless of whether the seller of the handgun is a licensed dealer or private seller. It also raised the handgun purchasing age from 18 to 21 years and required prospective purchasers to complete at least eight hours of approved handgun safety training.
“It’s a small price to pay for the number of lives it can save,” Webster said of the permit-to-purchase law.
Scott Wilson, a gun-rights advocate and the president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the study is flawed because it does not take into consideration a national drop in crime and homicide rates or the high number of homicides in certain cities and states, including Chicago and New Jersey, that have tough gun restrictions.
“I think people look into the tea leaves and want to see what they want to see,” Wilson said.
The NRA also says a decrease in the number of guns does not correlate to a decrease in guns deaths, attributing it to other factor, including improvements in the criminal justice system, law enforcement policies, and the economy, a reduction in the “crack” cocaine trade, and the aging of gang members.
When Connecticut approved its law, it was one of 10 states and the District of Columbia to have a permit- to- purchase statute. Connecticut has had a dramatic drop in homicides since 2011, leading to the lowest number of homicides since 2001, according to data recorded by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Federal law requires those who purchase guns from federally licensed dealers to pass an FBI background check. But sales from private, unlicensed dealers are exempt.
An attempt in Congress to broaden those background checks after the slaying of 20 first graders and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School stumbled, succumbing to the might of the National Rifle Association on Capitol Hill.
A majority of states still do not have permit-to-purchase laws.
The Johns Hopkins University study may help an effort by Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Reps. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. , sponsors of the Handgun Purchaser Licensing Act of 2015, a bill that would make permit-to-purchase a federal law.
“Today’s research shows that Connecticut’s gun safety laws are working to reduce gun violence and save lives,” Murphy said.
Webster said a federal permit-to-purchase law “would save a lot of lives and impose relatively minor restrictions.”
The Republican-controlled Congress, however, has proven resistant to new gun-control mesures.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research is part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, founded by a sizable donation from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun-control activist and university alumnus.
But Johns Hopkins University spokeswoman Alicia Samuels said “the research is independent from the former mayor and not funded by the former mayor.”
Nevertheless, the NRA attacked the school of public health’s association with Bloomberg.
“The Michael Bloomberg School of Public Health is not a credible source of information on gun laws given that the billionaire gun control advocate has given more than $1 billion to the school and has pledged the rest of his fortunes to attacking the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding American,” said NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen. “Extensive studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by Harvard University have proved that no gun-control law has ever reduced violence.”
Earlier research by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that Missouri’s 2007 repeal of its handgun license law was associated with a 25 percent increase in its firearm homicide rate.